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Preservation Profile: Carnegie Arts Center

The past several years have seen dramatic restoration, renovations and building improvements at the Carnegie Art Center. In 2015, an $88,000 exterior tuck pointing project was completed. Damaging vines were removed and mortar between each brick and stone was painstakingly ground out and new mortar set. The building was crowned with a new metal capstone to curtail further deterioration of the existing crumbling capstone. A 2016 addition in the rear of the building houses a wheelchair lift making the building accessible for the rest time in its history. The project manager, architect, engineers and contractor worked diligently to ensure that the addition complimented the original design of the library in aesthetics and materials. In the interior, new flooring, paint and restroom upgrades were completed.

Before the renovation, covered in ivy.

The preservation and improvements were made possible by matching $250,000 donations of two local families, Jennie and Jim Ward and Mary and Mark Davis. A longtime Carnegie volunteer and exhibiting artist, Jennie felt compelled to protect and preserve the building. Additional support was provided by the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation, the Andreas Foundation and in kind services from Brunton Architects and Engineers, Brennan Construction and other subcontractors. The building cornerstone, once hidden by twisty vines and thick leaves, was unearthed during the restoration and now highlights the message Andrew Carnegie insisted on before he would agree to the site of his library: “Let there be light”. And one can’t help but notice now how the building literally glows. Probably much like it did in 1902.

Earlier this year, the Carnegie Art Center became the 16th addition to Mankato's list of Heritage Preservation Landmarks. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980. The Carnegie Art Center is frequently visited by fans of Maud Hart Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" books, as the Carnegie Library was featured in "Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown."

Exterior and Interior view of the finished renovation.

The Carnegie Art Center is a historic landmark in our City Center. By investing a significant financial investment as well as volunteer time and energy into restoring, preserving and upgrading the interior and exterior of the building, they have ensured that future generations will see the Carnegie as it was originally designed to appear, yet the building still functions in the modern day.


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