By Megan Hopps
SUN PRESS Newspapers
After much discussion, the City of Champlin came to a decision that the Old Champlin Library (the little white building just off Hwy. 169 and West River Road) no longer serves as an asset to the community.
“The building was donated to the city in 2003 by the Champlin Women’s Club,” City Administrator Bret Heitkamp said.
Originally, the building was purchased by the Champlin Women’s Club in 1921 and served as the Champlin Library until a new one was built in 1973. Champlin’s current library opened in 1994 and is now a part of the Hennepin County Library system.
A piece of history
In 1913 roughly 30 women in the community wanted to create a library and reading room for children in Champlin. These women organized a group and called themselves the Women’s Club. They began by renting space in a local building and ran a library that was open to the public on Saturdays and evenings.
According to Hennepin County Library archives, in 1921 the Women’s Club was able to obtain a “16 foot by 16 foot cottage” from the Standard Oil Company. The cottage became the city’s new library and in 1922, the library became a branch of the Hennepin County Library system.
The Women’s Club then purchased two lots of land at the intersection of Dayton Road and, what is today called, Curtis Road because a feed mill was to be built at the existing site. In the late 1930s, an addition totaling 16 feet by 32 feet was added to building. This cost the Women’s Club $700 to complete renovations to the space.
At the dedication of the building, Women’s Club member Bessie Kimball stated, “May it (the library) stand as a monument of our efforts and an inspiration to the future generation.”
In 1972 the building was moved to Mississippi Point Park at Highway 169 and West River Road Library service continued at the site while the new Champlin Library was being built on Dayton Road and Curtis Road. The new building opened its doors in 1973 and Josephine Nunn, Champlin’s mayor at the time, spoke at the library’s dedication ceremony. This is according to achieves in the Hennepin County Library history regarding the history of the Champlin Library.
The building served as city headquarters during Father Hennepin Festival before the 2000s.
The current Champlin Library was built in 1993 and opened in 1994.
an alternative solution
Since then, however, the building has stood vacant for more than a decade.
When the Champlin Women’s Club donated the building to the city, it also gave $6,000 for maintenance and repairs, but it became the city’s responsibility to insure it. Annually, the city invested in several repairs and maintenance projects totaling approximately $500. However, the building also needed to be insured at a cost of $500 per year.
According to a memo written by the city’s Parks and Public Works department, the city worked with the Champlin Historical Society to find alternative solutions to preserve the building. A member of the Minnesota Historical Society was contacted to explore relocation options. It was suggested that the old library be moved next to the Dunning School, but the representative warned that this would drastically affect the historical significance of the Dunning School.
“The other point made by the Minnesota Historical Society was that aside from our local history of the library, it was basically an old building with very little in the way of value to the state for historical preservation,” said Champlin Historical Society Historian, Mike Brey.
And Friends of the Champlin Library member Jim Johnson confirms this as well.
“The city came to us asking if we had any connection to the building or interest in using it,” Johnson said. “We have no connection to the Old Library Building. My understanding is the last people to use it were the Women’s Club, but that group isn’t around anymore.”
After consulting with the Champlin Historical Society, Friends of the Champlin Library and other community groups, it was determined that “efforts to find another location were proven unattainable and or that there is no interest in preserving the building.”
The memo also stated that due to an “absence of funding and lack of other suitable locations to relocate were reasons that moving of the building proved unpractical and not workable.”
“It hadn’t been used in over a decade,” Heitkamp said. “It needed new windows and other repairs to keep it up to code.”
According to the Champlin Historical Society, the building had been painted using lead paint which means if and when the siding needed to be repainted, it would have been a costly and labor intensive process to repair. The building also had an asbestos issue which needed to be addressed.
And so, after the city had consulted with other groups, it was determined that these groups had no interest in funding or maintaining the site, nor did they see a practical use for it.
However, Brey added, “This was the last structure standing from the old town site of Champlin.”
The Old Library Building served its last headquarters duties at the Father Hennepin Festival of this year. The Champlin Historical Society removed any items deemed significant to possess and maintain as a historical relic. The city’s Parks and Public Works disconnected all electrical outlets and the building was taken down June 24.
Contact Megan Hopps at [email protected]