C Cleveland

Saturday, January 2, 2010

One of the best places in town for bibliophiles and architectural lovers is the Cleveland Public Library. The library system has 28 branches but today, we're going to focus on the main branch in downtown Cleveland.

Main library, Superior Avenue

The library was founded in 1869 in a rented room; a far cry from the almost 10 million item collection it boasts today. As its circulation grew, Director, William Howard Brett searched for a permanent home for the library.

Early bookmobiles

In 1916, eight architectural firms competed for the design of the new library and Cleveland firm, Walker & Weeks was selected. In 1923, the new library opened to much celebration and was attended by then British Prime Minister, Lloyd George as Guest of Honor. The cost was just under $5 million, a combination of voter approved bonds and a state legislated bond issue.

By the 1950's, the library had outgrown its space once again and was fortunate to purchase the 6-story Plain Dealer (Cleveland newspaper) building for $1.8 million.

While it has grown technologically, it fiercely protects and preserves its vast collection and founded a Preservation Office in 1988 to serve this purpose.

The Main Library's special collections include the Mears and Murdock baseball collections, the Cleveland Theater collection, the John G. White chess and checkers collection, a 130,000-volume children's collection, a 74,000-volume rare book collection, and collection of 1.3 million photographs.

1943 Yankees World Series lineup

Babe Ruth

Cincinnati Red Stockings

Cleveland Athletics, 1871

In 1992, the library was once again expanded with a new $65 million ten-story building connected to the old one through an underground floor. This new building houses 30 miles of book shelves, enough for 1.3 million books.

New addition

The main library building underwent a $24 million extensive renovation which updated electrical, plumbing and ventilation systems. The exterior marble was cleaned, decorative metalwork was repaired and polished and the original leather doors were given new life. The building was given back its original life and luster without compromising the integrity of the original design.

Entrance to general reference room

Detail of the ornate ceilings

Leather doors



  1. What a lovely building. It kind of reminds me of the Midtown Theatre in Kansas City. Very nice. Thanks, I always like the C Cleveland posts.

  2. That's better than a museum! It more resembles a cathedral than a library. Libraries are rich with free things, I love them.


  3. Once again a nice tour. I don't know what your day job is, but you have a knack of making education fun and informative.

  4. Fabulous! Just the love and care all libraries should have.

  5. Fantastic library! Lovely building too.

  6. Did you or someone else write about this before? Either way, very interesting!


  7. I mean, you or someone else on my blog roll.. ...I'm sure plenty of people have WRITTEN about it!


  8. I love your posts! I feel like I'm treated to such a fabulous tour! Thanks for taking the time to put this together and write it. Muah!

  9. Those old photos of the "bookmobile" are great! So are the rest of them including the building.:-)

  10. I like how you blended both modern day and vintage photos. I LOVE looking at old images of how it WAS, compared to how it IS.

    Cleveland architecture has such a beautiful fusion of old and new. It truly looks like such a wonderful city!

    Thanks again for sharing these tours - I REALLY enjoy them, girl!


  11. Wow, what a beautiful and grand library!

  12. @Mark Price,
    I'll have to look up the Midtown. Thanks!

    You're right. It's its own museum.

    @R. Jacob,
    Thanks! The library actually emailed me yesterday to ask if they could reprint this in their newsletter!

    You betcha!

    That's true but sadly they don't.

    Yep! You should see it in person.

    No, ma'am, not me. You mean someone else wrote about MY library??

    @That Gal Kiki,
    Glad you like them. They're so fun to put together!

    @Linda Pendleton,
    I know. The old pics are my faves.

    So many places around town fascinate me when I look at what they were before and what they are now. This is one that, thankfully, has held up.

    SO glad you enjoy them! Hope you're not snowed in. We got SOCKED this week.

    @Cinnamon and her mum,
    It truly is!


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