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Photos: A last look inside? James J. Hill Center is closing its doors to public

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The reading room at the James J. Hill Center is seen from the 2nd-floor.
The reading room at the James J. Hill Center is seen from the second-floor balcony inside the nearly 100-year-old building on Thursday. The center, which opened in 1921, announced that it will close to the public on July 3.
Evan Frost | MPR News

After serving St. Paul for 98 years, the James J. Hill Center will close to the public on July 3 as its board evaluates options for the historic building's future.

Originally a reference library, in more recent years it has served as a popular wedding, event and nonprofit business center as research needs have continued to change over the decades.  

The privately funded nonprofit said in a statement on its website that "our ability to provide these services to the public for free is not sustainable. 

"We continue to be challenged to develop a financial model that can deliver the original intent while being fiscally responsible for the ongoing operating costs of the organization and necessary capital investments in the historic structure."

While all wedding reservations, and other contracted events, will be honored through 2019, the center is not taking any future bookings, it said.

Hill, the Midwest railroad magnate commissioned the library in 1911 but died five years before it's completion in 1921. He wanted the library to have the most current and accurate materials, and he intentionally left out the subjects of law, genealogy, medicine and popular fiction. 

Books at the center now are used for historical research. It also holds a number of historical artifacts like James J. Hill's personal desk and a book press from 1900.  

Database access and research assistance will end on July 3, as well. The center did not articulate what may become of its extensive collections and artifacts.

Nor did it offer a date for when a longer-term decision about the building and its use will be determined.

"The Hill's Board and executive director are carefully examining options," the statement said. "The timing of when the decision will be made will be influenced by the level of analysis, input required and discussion by the Board."

The executive director and one staff member will remain, while "remaining staff members will be provided appropriate notification and considerations as they leave."

(June 14, 2019) Editor's note: Some readers may have been mislead to believe the Hill Center was permanently closing. To clarify, this story has been updated to include more contextual information.