Harold Washington Library Center

Thomas Beeby of Hammond, Beeby and Babka Inc.

The library is named after late Mayor Harold Washington (died 1987), the city's first African American mayor who had been a strong advocate for the new building. The monumental building, like its predecessor, occupies an entire city block, and although it is a post-modern building, again like its predecessor it harkens back to the Beaux Arts style of the late nineteenth century. Axial symmetry, for one, typifies Beaux Arts buildings as well as decorative elements. For all its classicism, it is of course a modern building with a glass and aluminum pedimented attic with a winter garden, roofed of glass on the top floor.
Here, like Renaissance palazzi, it has clearly defined registers, with obvious rustication on the lowest level, less obvious rustication in the second register, and a smoother surface once the facing changes from granite to brick--from the 3rd floor up.

The entrance with obvious rustication on the two lowest registers

The middle floors are the interior stack spaces, indicated on the facade by the tall deeply set arched windows and the horizontal brick decoration indicating the interior floors.

Corner decoration

The huge acroteria at the corners feature several representations of the owl, a bird associated with Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.

The glass pedimented attic and decorative sculpture

See also the former Chicago Public Library.

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© 2005 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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