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Walker Library Records

Identifier: HCL 063

Description of Contents

This collection contains fact sheets, brochures, building information, contracts, newspaper clippings, correspondence, plans, maps, and other administrative records documenting the history of Walker Library from 1910 to 2019. The bulk of the materials document the construction and renovation of the underground library at 2880 Hennepin Ave., which opened in 1981.


  • 1910 - 2019



The collection is available for use in Special Collections during the department’s open hours.


Located near the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street in the uptown area of Minneapolis, Walker Library was founded in 1911. The library has had three distinct buildings. The second building, opened in 1981, was located entirely underground. Walker and the 14 other libraries of Minneapolis Public Library were merged into the combined urban/suburban Hennepin County Library in 2008.

The original Walker Library, located at 2901 Hennepin Ave., was built in 1911, when the Hennepin/Lake area was sparsely populated. T. B. Walker, the president of the library board at the time, donated land for the site of the library. The opening of this library coincided with the opening of a streetcar line on Lake Street, and it helped fulfill head librarian Gratia Countryman's wishes to expand the library system and bring books closer to people. Local architect Jerome Paul Jackson designed the library in a Classical Revival design. The portico, with Ionic columns, shows Beaux-Arts characteristics.

On June 13, 1911, the Walker Branch Library celebrated its grand opening. The first librarian was Lucy C. Dinsmore, who served from 1911-1925. A city of Minneapolis report written soon after the Walker Library opened noted that West High School and three other schools were in “borrowers’ distance” but about half of the circulation was adult fiction. On October 1, 1925 Lucy C. Dinsmore resigned, she was replaced by Alta I. Hansen who had previously worked at the Business Branch.

Starting in May 1937 the Minnesota Mycological society had its regular meetings for the study of mushrooms at the Walker Library. The Minnesota Audubon Society also had regular meetings and film and slide programs at the library. The Audubon Society also had a display of birds in the basement Audubon room until 1959 when the birds were donated to the city school's science departments. In the late 1930s the library had some WPA workers to help with day-to-day operations. Dexter Goulston, a labor organizer and auxiliary member of Truck Driver's Local #544 attempted to get WPA and Library staff to rebel against management but Marion Crosby was so universally respected that his words fell on deaf ears and he was quite discouraged and was transferred. Crosby was a bit concerned that she may have done something to get the library involved with the very active truck drivers union but everything ended up working out for the best. Another WPA worker, Patricia Cannon, received rave reviews from Crosby during her time there but afterwards, in 1938, Cannon was arrested for forging withdrawals from the library account assigned to Crosby. There were also many other WPA workers that did excellent work and provided great service to library patrons.

On September 14, 1939 Father Ryan of St. Stephen's parish requested permission to use the meeting space at Walker Library for the purpose of weekday classes in religious instruction. Library director Carl Vitz informed the Library Board that under current library rules, meeting facilities cannot be used for religious or political meetings. The Library Board voted to change the rule allowing this type of use but only under strict conditions. In September 1940 the café at the Carling Hotel, the Library's neighbor was raided for selling hard liquor (it only had a license for beer). Marion Crosby hoped, “if they fold up and fade from the scene we shall not have so many bottles to clear off our lawn in the mornings.”

A plan emerged in 1968 to replace the Walker Library with a 15,000 square foot building at Humboldt Avenue South and Lake Street, it did not come to fruition. In 1971 Library Director Ervin Gaines wrote to the Lowry Hill Homeowner's Association, “We have been endeavoring for the last several years to persuade the city fathers that the Walker Library at 29th and Hennepin is too small and outmoded for the space age and for the desires of the neighborhood. So far, we have not been successful…Lowry Hill residents, once persuaded to take action, will be a compelling force to bring to reality our dream of a new library to replace the old and honored Walker Library that has served so well, but has grown obsolete.”

In 1974 the Minneapolis Park Board denied the library the land across from the present library for a new library; it would have been at the end of the Mall. The library was also looking at the Calhoun School at 3016 Girard as a possible site. By 1976 a joint library/park recreation center and new gym for West High School was floated. West High did later get a new gym, which became the YWCA when West was demolished. The Minneapolis Park Board rejected the joint use idea. The Minneapolis Library Board chose 2880 Hennepin as the site for the new Walker Library.

In October 1978 the land was purchased for the new Walker Library at Lagoon and Hennepin. The cost was $310,600. The new Walker Community Library, 2880 Hennepin Avenue South opened in 1981, which was built out of concrete and earth at a cost of $2.3 million. It was designed by Myers & Bennett and built by George F. Cook Construction. The old library closed on February 7, 1981 and the new library opened on February 23. 1981. The library board sold old Walker Library to Laurence S. Zipkin for $400,000 in October 1980. It was the first earth-sheltered building constructed by the City of Minneapolis and one of the few underground public libraries in the country. It measured 18,500 square feet and had a 36 car metered parking lot. An article written by the East Calhoun News in April 1982 noted that the new Library was too busy to note its anniversary. Circulation at the library jumped 77% from 1980 to 1981. Walker Library moved from fifth place in circulation out of the 14 community libraries to second, ranking only behind Washburn Library.

In 1985 a casual restaurant, “Walker’s” opened in the basement of the old library. Gourmet hamburgers were the signature fare. In 1993 the Junior League bought the building and opened a used clothing store inside, called “The Clothesline.” In October 2003 a posh spa and salon named Pagoda moved into the old library.The building was sold in January 2015 to Ned Abdul,to become a reception venue called Mansion at Uptown that opened in 2016.

In the 1970s, the Walker Library at 2901 Hennepin Avenue was deemed, “not to meet the standards of a modern facility…with many exterior steps and the interior is crowded.” It was replaced by the Walker Community Library, across the street at 2880 Hennepin Avenue South, in 1981, which was built out of concrete and earth at a cost of $2.3 million. The two main floors of the new building were located underground. There was a large "LIBRARY" sign on Hennepin Avenue with an entry pavilion to indicate the library's presence.[6] A unique feature of this building was its book return. Books could be dropped off from a chute at the top of the building and would slide down a long spiraling metal playground slide to the bottom floor.

By 1993, several deficiencies in lighting, space, identity, water leakage and accessibility were noted for the building. When it was constructed, underground building technology was new and untested. Although built to conserve energy, many times these buildings ended up being expensive to maintain. The Walker Library was no exception. What was revolutionary in 1981 was considered ugly and prone to vandalism in 1993. By 1994, many in the neighborhood wanted to move back to the old library building instead of paying $900,000 in renovations for the new one. The renovation was still much cheaper compared to the estimated $5.4 million required to update the old Walker building which had just been bought by the Junior League.

In 1995, renovations were done to address structural issues and make the library more inviting. Seven-foot-high brushed stainless steel block letters spelling out L-I-B-R-A-R-Y, designed by Leonard Park Associates Architects, were added to the exterior and an original mural of Cinderella based upon Beatrix Potter's characters added charm to the children's area. After initial rejection, a renovated parking deck was approved and undertaken to eliminate the cracks and leaks in the roof. A mixed-use library/apartment building was also proposed but a task force decided not to move forward with a building that could possibly cost $6.5 million.

In 2001, a children's book written by Susan Goldman Rubin titled There Goes the Neighborhood: Ten Buildings People Loved to Hate included chapters on the Eiffel Tower, the Guggenheim Museum and the Walker Library.

More renovations were done to the parking deck in 2005. By 2006, proposals were being considered to replace the library with something that would be more visible. The building was razed in 2013 to make way for a new above-ground library. The 1981 building closed on September 22, 2012 and was replaced with a new building designed by VJAA and built by Shaw-Lundquist and Associates. It opened on April 26, 2014. In the new, above-ground building, visitors enter through the front door into a vestibule, and then into a large high-ceilinged main room, containing the front desk, rows of computers, self checkout stations, and books and DVDs. Below the building is a new underground parking garage. Behind the building, in an alley dipping into the ground to allow access to the parking garage, the stainless steel block letters from the front of the 1981 building were placed on the ledge on top of the alley.


2.09 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



Fact sheets, brochures, building information, newspaper clippings, correspondence and other administrative records documenting the history and operations of Walker Library in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1910 to 2019. Walker Library was part of the Minneapolis Public Library. The Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library merged in 2008. Walker Library is now part of the Hennepin County Library.

Custodial History

Materials from before 2008 were included in the Minneapolis Public Library archives (accession 2019.25).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection contains materials transferred to the archives by Hennepin County Library administration in 2017 accession 2019.25. Additional materials transferred by Walker Library 2019 as accession 2019.33.

Related Materials in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

This is one of many collections documenting Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library locations. For photographs, see HCL 002 Hennepin County Library Photographs.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jenna Jacobs in May 2021.

Walker Library Records
Jenna Jacobs
May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.