DPL Lincoln Branch

The 1917 Lincoln Branch of the Duluth Public Library ca. 1975, photographer unknown. [Image: Duluth Public Library]

2227 West Second Street | Holstead & Sullivan, Architects | Built: 1917 | Closed: 1990

Two years after it first organized in 1890, the Duluth Library Board opened a branch library within a building at 1930 West Superior Street in the city’s West End, a neighborhood that was growing each day with newly arriving immigrants. It was twice relocated along West Superior Street before it closed in 1901. In 1908 the local Gymnasium and Twentieth Century clubs opened a lending library in the vestry of the neighborhood’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. It proved very popular with immigrant school children who were learning to read English, so much so it was forced to move into larger quarters in 1910. It moved again in 1912, when the library board made it the library system’s official West End Branch.

Two years later the branch had to relocate again after it acquired many books printed in Scandinavian languages that were invaluable to the West End’s many adult Norwegian and Swedish immigrants. Circulation reflected the philosophy of the facility’s librarian, Margaret Regan, who called libraries “social barometers” as “one can almost tell what is happening in a neighborhood by the kind of reading material demanded.”

By April 1915 Mayor William Prince was pushing for a new library building, promising to contact Andrew Carnegie himself to request financing. After a site was selected and the city requested ideas from architects, the library board decided to name the facility the Lincoln Branch of the Duluth Public Library for nearby Lincoln Park, perhaps to avoid confusion with its West Duluth Branch.

Construction began in early 1917 following plans by Duluth architects Holstead & Sullivan. Their drawings called for a two-level Gothic Revival building faced in dark brown and red brick and trimmed in limestone. Concrete steps to the upper level are enclosed by a brick-and-limestone railing leading to a central, arched entrance along Second Street. The words “Lincoln Branch Library” are carved immediately above the door, and over them a pediment contains the entwined initials “DPL” for Duluth Public Library. Rows of six arched windows run along the façade on either side of the doorway. Each of the building’s large gable ends contain a three-tiered Gothic window framed in limestone and flanked by two stone shields. The southwestern façade includes a basement entrance capped with a pediment inscribed with the words “Club Room.” A two-story, three-sided bay juts out from above the doorway.

Inside on the upper level, the gable-end windows and a vaulted ceiling allow natural light to flood the open floor plan, which contained a circulation desk, tables for patrons, and bookshelves aligned in accordance to the recommendations of James Bertram, Carnegie’s personal secretary.
The facility served Duluth for the next seven decades, with a garage added in 1966 to house the library’s bookmobile. Two years after it closed in 1990, the Duluth Art Institute purchased the building and has since used it as a community center for arts education.

Lincoln Branch of the Duluth Public Library. (Image: Zenith City Press)