Former Library Holds Cloquet History

Northland Uncovered: Shaw Memorial Library

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In today’s world, it’s rare to live in a town that doesn’t have it’s own library, or at least one near.

This wasn’t always the case.

An illuminated grand staircase leads the way to wisdom.

“Many entrepreneurs back in the late 1800s believed that knowledge is power,” explained Rachael Martin, Executive Director of the Carlton County Historical Society.

A symbol for libraries that still holds true today.

“It gives the building an impressive look. It’s elevated above the rest of society,” said Martin.

Back in the late 1800s, a man traveled to Cloquet from the east coast and saw a need.

“George Shaw was horrified that out here in the wilderness there was no public library,” said Martin.

George Shaw was the president of the Cloquet Lumber Company and used his own money to give the area its own public library.

“He was very passionate about education as a stepping stone towards advancement,” said Martin.

During the planning process, Shaw passed away.

“And he never did get to see the building built that he planned,” said Martin.

But efforts moved forward and the library was built.

It opened in the early 1900s, but tragedy struck.

The fires of 1918 blazed through Cloquet and the library was destroyed.

“As far south as Pine City, way up to Carlton County, into St. Louis County, parts of Duluth, up the north shore,” said Martin.

When George Shaw’s daughters heard about the misfortune, they went back to Cloquet and used their own money to build a brand new library.

“They made it fireproof and modern and there’s one electrical outlet in each room,” said Martin.

It still stands today.

The Shaw Memorial Library is on the National Register of Historical Places and now holds the Carlton County Historical Society.

A stitchers and weavers display is open through Labor Day and features the stitching of women who live and lived in Carlton County.

The historical society is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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