Prepared by: Kirk Jeffrey
Department of History
THE NORTHFIELD GUILD HALL
(Formerly the Y.M.C.A. Building, the Community Building, the City Hall)
FIRST PHASE, 1885-1919
Genesis. The Northfield YMCA had been founded in March 1873. Leadership
came from among the leading men of the community -- the merchants who
also dominated the Congregational Church and were closely associated with
Carleton College. The purpose of the YMCA was to provide wholesome opportunities for learning and recreation for the young men of Northfield.
On May 10, 1884, a number of YMCA leaders met and decided to construct
a building. They quickly secured pledges of over $1200 from YMCA members,
and looked to the Northfield community for additional support. Enthusiasm
for the project quickly snowballed. Construction began exactly a year
after the first meeting — May 10, 1885 — with over $4000 having been
pledged. The cornerstone was laid on May 26, 1885. The building was
officially opened on December 10t 1885.
According to the Northfield News, December 12, 1885, the entire cost'
of the building was $7,000. It would have been about $8,400, but discounts on supplies and materials were offered. The funds were raised
entirely in Northfield except for $200; most subscriptions were small,
with only five amounting to $200 or more. e.
This was the first outstate YMCA building in Minnesota. It was also
one of the most handsome structures along Division Street, in an era
when the earlier frame buildings were being rapidly replaced by the
brick-and-stpne structures which we know today. The sense of pride
and accomplishment which Northfielders took in the building can be
glimpsed in the cornerstone and opening ceremonies (see below), and
in the announcement of the local YMCA executive committee that the
anniversary of the opening would be observed every year. Clearly,
construction of the building was a major event in the ongoing process
of community self-definition.
Architect. G.M. Goodwin of Minneapolis.
Exterior. The building is 30 X 80 feet and built into bedrock.
It was remarked, while the building was under construction, that it
was the' first structure of "this character in the state, not taking
into account the small wooden building set on posts at Stillwater."
(News, May 30, 1885, p. 3) Three walls are stone; the facade is
described (News, December 12, 1885, p. 4) as "Chicago pressed brick,
trimmed with Ohio cut stone." The cut stone was furnished by C. McCall
of Faribault, the brick by Stroback, Greiner of Chaska (News, May 9,
1885, p. 3).