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The St. Paul Public/James T. Hill Library has a long history in St. Paul. The Library’s beginnings were in 1856 as a reading room at the local YMCA. In 1882, the first formal library was organized and opened. Plans for what began as the Central Library, took shape in the early 1900s thanks to rapid growth. The current building, designed by architect Electus Litchfield, was constructed from 1914 to 1917. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

  • The St. Paul Public Library's main building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Funds for the library came from railroad baron James J. Hill, a subscription campaign, a bequest from Greenleaf Clark and a sale of bonds authorized by the state legislature. The total cost of the facility, including the James T. Hill Reference Library, was $1.5 million.

The building’s exterior is made of Tennessee marble while the interior is predominately gray Mankato stone. Noteworthy architectural features include round arched windows, Palladian style entrances, large stonework, the balustrade surrounding the building, classical columnns and pilasters among others. The original woodwork is gray stained maple.

Numerous renovations have taken place through the years. In 2014, the Central Library was renamed the George Latimer Central Library, to honor the former St. Paul mayor. Today, in addition to the main building, the St. Paul Library system includes 12 branches and a bookmobile. The main branch is home to about 350,000 books and other materials, and gets more than 300,000 visitors a year.

National Park Service website, accessed May 4, 2017.

City of St. Paul website, accessed May 4, 2017.

St. Paul Library website, accessed May 4, 2017.