Created By: North Dakota State University
Of the many historic buildings torn down during the urban renewal process, one that stands out is the Carnegie Moorhead Public Library. The library was a one story Classical revival style building that was built in part to the Women’s Club of Moorhead, who persuaded the City Council in 1904 to establish a library fund and obtained a $12,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie for construction of the library. Carnegie’s objective was philanthropic, hoping that “free public libraries would allow persons of limited income and educational opportunity to improve themselves intellectually as he himself had done”.
Planning for the library started around 1903, when Sarah Comstock in her local Women's Club of Moorhead with the help of an attorney George E Perley acquired a Carnegie grant of $10,000 to build a library in Moorhead. The only requirement was that the city had to make available a site and maintain the library after construction was finished. Moorhead used a Fargo architect, M.E. Beebe, and built a compact classical revival structure with a pediment entry and a central dome. The building had great dignity and architectural quality at the time of its demolition in the late 1960s. In 1961, Moorhead built a new public library on a different site, while in May of 1963, the Carnegie building was demolished and is now a parking lot.
Services offered by the Moorhead Public Library early in its history eventually formed the Clay County library, which became the Lake Agassiz Regional Library in 1961. Mrs. Comstock thought that a public library was vital for the education of Moorhead. The Clay County Library was formally introduced in 1949 after many years of extension service provided by the Moorhead Public Library. The Carnegie Library, also known as the Moorhead Public Library, opened in 1906 on the corner of Sixth Street and Main Ave.
The site of the urban renewal was the second oldest residential area in the city. Many buildings in the flood plain were deteriorating and the destruction of downtown was justified, thinking that a major redevelopment was needed to modernize the city. The city administration during this time were sensitive to the problems of growth and development in the downtown area and pushed hard for redevelopment, but Moorhead never did catch up to Fargo in their downtown boom.
To find out about Sarah Comstock's Moorhead home, visit site 26.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Moorhead Historic Preservation Walking Tour