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.
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
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.
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