Mystery Photo #123: Duluth Public Library Reading Room

At one time for sale on Amazon, but now marked “currently unavailable,” is this photo labeled “Reading Room, Duluth Public Library, 1890-1930, Minnesota, MN, Chairs, People, Books.”

The summary reads: “Interior view of reading room showing many patrons seated at tables.”

So the question is: Which Duluth Public Library reading room is this?

The Duluth Library Foundation’s website outlines the various library locations throughout history. Was our mystery photo shot at the Young Men’s Literary and Library Association reading room at 106 W. Superior St. circa the 1870s? The second floor of the Grand Opera House at 333 W. Superior St. circa the 1880s? The second floor reading room at the Masonic Temple circa the 1890s? Or the Duluth Carnegie Library circa the early 1900s?


Barrett Chase

about 3 years ago

I believe this is the Carnegie Library. In this photo I took inside the building in 2006, you can sort of see similar detail of the ceiling through the transom. It may or may not be the same room, but the ceiling looks the same.

Barrett Chase

about 3 years ago

Here's a close up from my photo:


about 3 years ago

The window pattern as seen from the outside of the Carnegie building -- three long windows on one side and four short on the other -- confirms what Barrett wrote (and using Google satellite view to look from above, the skylight position also matches). 

And Barrett should be considered the expert on this, as his photos seem to be the only interior photos of the building available anywhere online, other than some recent pictures of the rotunda and a few historic photos of the children’s section on Minnesota Reflections. 

As he noted, however, his photo showing a part of the ceiling is likely of a different room. The orientation of the windows line up with the southeast corner and I believe his photo looks into the southwest room. 

According to Zenith City Press, the southwest corner was in fact the location of the reading room, but it had a large carved sandstone fireplace. This room is likely not the reading room, but another room mentioned in the same article – the newspaper room, as suggested by the large number of people reading newspapers and the newspaper racks at the back of the wall.

You can see hundreds of people in the space of the room in this picture but the room itself does not yet exist. 

For a definite answer, someone would need to go down to the building and break open the wall directly below the stone being placed in the construction photo. According to David Ouse at Vintage Duluth, it contains a time capsule in the form of a sealed copper box with information about the library inside.

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Read previous post:
Twenty Years on the Superior Hiking Trail: Ely’s Peak Loop

The laziest and slowest record in endurance-sports history has been broken. Again. By me. Again. As documented in numerous essays,...