Wimmer Hall (Old Library)

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Building Chronology

Wimmer Hall (Old Library)

Architects: Charles R. Aldrich, Minneapolis, Minnesota; renovation (1999): Rafferty, Rafferty, Tollefson

Contractor: John Heimann, Saint Cloud, Minnesota

Dates:

  • Bulit: 1901
  • Renovated: 1928, 1964, and 1999

Wimmer Hall, named after Abbot Boniface Wimmer, OSB, Patriarch of American Benedictines, and founder of Saint John’s Abbey, was constructed in 1901 to house the library collection of the growing college. The college library had previously been housed in the Quadrangle Building, but lack of space along with fire concerns inspired the building of a separate structure. Wimmer Hall is a three story, fire-resistant building, measuring 52’ x 88’. It is situated 30 feet off the southwest corner of the Quadrangle. The foundation is of field stone and the exterior walls are of Menominee pressed brick. The total cost of construction was $20,000. In 1902 an exposed iron bridge was erected by which one could enter the library building on the second floor from the Quadrangle. Due to winter hazards it was replaced by a permanent covered bridge in 1915.

Originally only the first floor of the building housed the campus library; the second floor contained a natural and historical museum; and the third floor housed the Music Department along with the Saint John's Photography Studio (which featured a large skylight on the east facade of the building). The Photography Studio moved into the building during the Christmas break of 1901-1902 and remained there until the fall of 1928. Despite the fact that four departments were housed in the building it was known as “The Library.” In 1928 the second floor was made into the reference library with the library stacks remaining on the first level; the skylight was filled in with brick and a new tile roof added. The museum moved to the third floor with Music Department moving to the new Auditorium-Music building. Wimmer Hall served as the college library until the present Alcuin Library was built in 1964.Hilary Thimmesh, SJU Professor of English and President Emeritus later wrote this about Wimmer Hall’s next occupancy:

What I remember as an interested bystander in the summer and fall of 1966 is the reconstruction of third floor Wimmer Hall as a radio station. The building had been constructed by Abbot Peter in 1901 for multiple use as a library, music department, and photography studio.

Sixty-five years later, music and photography had long since departed and the library floors stood empty following completion of Alcuin Library the year before. The dusty museum on the third floor now yielded to progress as carpenters, bricklayers, and electricians remodeled the floor to Bill's specifications, including a good-sized soundproof studio for live music broadcasts that turned out to be a useful all-purpose workroom once the station went on the air.

I don't think it was ever used for musical performances.

In addition to its upper floor being the campus home to MPR, Wimmer Hall’s  ground floor contains the Administrative Computing Center, the second floor houses the Corporation Business Office, and the third floor is devoted to the broadcast studios of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), KSJR-KSJN Radio. Wimmer Hall is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 


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