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Wedding Photos At James J Hill Center Library St Paul

There is some mythic location in the cities where photographer would dream of covering a wedding celebration and its ceremony. The James J. Hill Center Library is one of those rare pearls. It’s a master chief of architecture and elegance. Located in the center of St. Paul, MN it shares the same building as the St.Paul Central Library. It’s facing the Mississippi River on one south side, the iconic Landmark Center on north (separated by the Rice Park).

So let’s see here why this historical venue is amazing for photography, and what you should consider if you decide to get married there.

james j hill center

ERATUM: The James J. Hills Center Library and all the reading rooms are currently closed to the public. The location is being sold. The Hill organization was losing money with this nonprofit business center, and is now focusing on reorienting its activity to keep helping small business.

As a result not only residents can’t come to read books anymore, but the wedding venue service is simply suspended. What a pity! 
Nevertheless we hope that the new owner will continue to host events!

You can check at the pioneer press of fresh information of directly call the organization.
And you can read the last chapter of this article to find alternative location.

Perfect place for ceremonies and receptions

Most of the building that is part of the National Register of Historic Places are usually pretty amazing. That’s the case for this Italian Renaissance and Beaux Arts Neoclassical style Building, designed by the famous architect Electus D. Litchfield.

The construction of the building has been made possible by the Mayor Lawler of Saint Paul and the famous Railroad Tycoon James J. Hills (knew as the Monument Empire Builder) who gave a large amount of money in order to support the construction and endowment of a reference library attached to the public library, now located in the east aisle of the building.
Construction started in 1914 and finished in 1921.

The west aisle of the building hosts the St Paul Library renamed in 2014 George Latimer Central Library in honor of the past mayor of the city.

The east aisle of the building hosted the association James J. Hill Reference Library renamed into James J. Hill Center Library in 2013, which welcome business events and private events such as weddings. Today it’s known as one of the more sophisticated places to get married in town.

Exterior in Tennessee Marble

The exterior of the building is made of white Tennesse Marble. The Renaissance Italian style is simple and sophisticated at the same time. It’s a massive rectangular building (including a backyard on the south side). The frontage use perspective effect and, playing with different floor height. From the exterior, the main floor seams supported by what looks like a basement. Thus the main floor looks terribly high. This effect is increased by the use of gigantic arched windows. The second floor of the building seems to be half-size, and the third floor even smaller.

To increase this high effect, the architect used different style and size of windows, the main arched level contrast with the rectangular windows from the level above.

The width of the building is increased using a Palladian style (basically it means that the building frontage is in symmetric). The north side, facing the Rice Park, shows two split stairs responding to each other. They both lead the visitor to a gigantic arch entrance, with cornice capping. In the middle of the building, a third and smaller entrance leads to the actual St Paul Library.

Great Reading Room With Curved Columns

Inside the building, you would find the impressive Great Reading room. It’s the main and the center room for the event. It’s a 4-floor hall with curved column (Kettle River sandstone) and with stacks of books on the side. The interior is made with gray Sandstone, Mankato Blue stone Rutland and golden vein Formosa marble. Guests would seat on strong wood and leather chair. The wood work is mainly gray stained maples. Finally, you can find some circular stairs to move between the books floors.

The empty space in the middle can seat up to 250 guests!

Getting married in this room is not only being surrounded by books, but it’s a place that reminds us of an antique Roman temple in its architecture, and a British university library by its interior.
Such decor doesn’t need extra ornaments to be beautiful. Of course, a touch of flowers would enhance the location, but are clearly not an obligation!

What should you consider if you decide to host your ceremony at the James J. Hill Center Library

surpise proposal


As you can guess, such a place is not the cheapest one, but, curiously not the most expensive either. It would cost you around $4000 to $5000 for a 10-hour location (3 hours for the vendors to setting, and 7 hours with the guests enjoy a party).

average cost wedding photographer


The venue includes an event manager to coordinate the different vendors. It is pretty essential in such old venues to have someone who knows the locations and its specificity! You don’t want your DJ to destroy the electric system, or to damage anything.

lake harriet


Like most of the upper-class wedding venue, the James J. Hill works a selection of high quality caterers that knows the place, and guarantee a good service.

trellis outdoor gardens

Chairs and Table

Beautiful old chairs and tables are included in the price, so you won’t need rentals.

trellis outdoor gardens

Bridal Suite

If the bride can get dress is a small room light by a window, the venue does not offer a real bridal suite. That’s probably the only downside we can approach to this venue. Thus I would highly recommend that you take a suite in an adjacent hotel. Good news, they are plenty around!
(the adjacent image is from another venue)

st paul city hall


The adjacent Saint Paul hotel is just amazing! You could also use their lobby and their spinning stairs to stage more sophisticated pictures.

The nearby Hyatt Hotel is also pretty neat. It used to be the custom office, and it’s lobby can be used for pictures.
Otherwise they’re a bunch of hotels, such as the nearby DoubleTree by Hilton, the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown, the luxurious Davidson Hotel in Summit, the Intercontinental River Front just to name a few.

elopement locations


Most hotels offer a shuttle service, but they are usually pretty modern and ugly buses. I would recommend renting a nice vehicle that could be used for the bride and the groom and the family pictures. That could be an old London cab, a vintage bus, a funny limo or even a horse carriage.

rainy outdoor


It’s not rare to experience echo in such larges spaces. So, make sure your DJ know how to handle it.

average cost wedding photographer


Most of good DJ would offer to you some lighting options. Given the venue is pretty dark that could be a great option.
Indeed, spreading LED box on the floor all over the venue will give a lot of tiny touch of light that would enhance the venue. Of course the price varies depending on the vendors.

Where to Go for Your Photo Session

For and engagement and wedding photographers in the Twin Cities, having such a backdrop for a ceremony is a unique chance. It’s like talking pictures with a professional model. You know that whatever you do, the pictures would be gorgeous. But if you work harder, they would be tremendous!
Nevertheless Despite James. J. Hill Library Center is gorgeous and that you entire images could be taken there, it’s great to have a different kind of background in photography. That’s allow to have different atmosphere and avoid repetition.

harriet island engagement

The convenient Harriett Island

Skip the Kellogg Mall Park, cross the Mississippi River and go take advantage of the Harriet Park and its view on the city skyline.

intimate wedding

Irvine Park for a touch a Greenery

Conveniently located at less than 5 min driving Irving Park and its fountain is a calm, historical, beautiful park. It’s more or less the same size than the Mears park, but it’s much better to have some portraits taken!

lyndale park rose

The Exquisite Rose Garden on Harriet Lake

If you didn’t have your engagement pictures taken there, go to Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, MN, and its stunning Rose Garden and Rock Peace Garden. In addition to the lake, it offers a large variety of plants and flowers that work just perfect for wedding photography.

centennial lake

The Mc Giver Solution Offering Tons of Options

Located near Bloomington in Edina, Minnesota, the Centennial Lake is a perfect park for couple session or an engagement session. It’s a mix of modern and nature, result of landscaper hard work. Indeed, you can find located back to back, a large variety of backdrops that would work just perfect whatever the season. 

Like the Swiss Army knife, it can face all kind of situation. You have some small hills, with a mini-golf course, some old iron bridges, some modern bridge, some reeds, high grass, willow trees, pine trees just to name a few. The park also offers a bunch of activity to have fun together and catch natural pictures (ice skating, lawn bowling, paddle boats).

Conclusion: A venue way above a simple Post-Industrial building for a wedding celebration

You can find in Minnesota, a lot a large variety of loft-style venue (such as the Loft at Studio J). If those rentals are enjoying the rustic charm of the past, they are deeply missing something, the elegance and sophistication offers by such imposing buildings!

No need to say that the James J. Hill Center would also work great for engagement pictures.

Alternative to the James J.Hill Center Library

If the Library is a reference that we will regret for next years, you would be happy to learn that there are alternatives. Here list historical venues in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN.

  1. The Landmark Center
    Located just across the street, the Landmark Center Atrium offers quite a similar experience than the Reading Room (without the books of course).
  2. The St Paul Athletic Club with its beautiful two floors Lobby and jaw-dropping Grand BallRoom is also an architectural marvel.
  3. The union depot with its spacious hall, arched windows and stone columns is also a breathtaking location to host a reception.
  4. James j. Hill House
  5. The Swedish Institute
  6. The Van Dusen Mansion
  7. The Semple Mansion
  8. The Gale Mansion
  9. The St Paul College Club
  10. The Minneapolis Club

If you are ready for a destination wedding out of Minnesota…

If you want to host your wedding in a stunning library, here is a short list of amazing library for weddings across the United States.

  • The Harold Washington Library in Chicago
  • D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) Library in Washington, D.C.
  • The University Club in New York City
  • BHS Pierrepont and the Othmer Library in NYC
  • Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in New York City
  • George Peabody Library in Baltimore
  • Boston Public Library in Boston
  • Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Rhode Island
  • Providence Athenaeum in Rhode Island

Black and White Portrait of Alexandre Mayeur, photographer at French-Touch-Photography

Born and raised in Paris, I am now a proud Wedding Photographer in Rochester, MN, serving MPLS.

I don’t only capture emotions in candid pictures, I also create timeless images and artful photographs.
Recognized as one of the best photographers in the Twin Cities.

I serve Duluth and also far beyond the 10,000 Lakes State (Wisconsin, Iowa, and destination). I am more than happy to discover beautiful landscapes and new horizons.

Have a look at my previous publications to learn more. As an experienced professional photographer, I don’t limit my field to lifestyle, family, or event photography! I invite you to visit my portfolio and discover my photography and work out of the studio.