I love public libraries–even when they aren’t!

Chicago Cultural CenterOn July 15, I had a chance to visit a library that isn’t any more.  Yes, that is correct — it isn’t filled with librarians wheeling racks of books or scholars wading through tomes, or children dashing excitedly to their parent with THE book they want to read.  No, it isn’t a library any more even tho’ the sign on the colonnade says it is the “Chicago Public Library.”   This building has been the home of the Chicago Cultural Center since 1991 and in the past few years it has been completely renovated. Though it isn’t used as a library any more, people were sitting in the open space and reading — some were reading “real” newspapers and others, the digital kind.

A few facts before I show you the photos.  The Chicago Cultural Center is located across from Millennium Park at the corner of Randolf and Michigan Ave.  Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge designed the facility in the Beaux Arts style, a clear homage to the architecture of the Chicago Worlds Fair. The building opened in 1897, displaying spectacular interiors filled with rare woods and marbles and glass and gold mosaics.  The building has the largest Tiffany dome (38′) in the world, composed of over 30,000 pieces of glass.

There are sit down spaces, galleries, and a performance space under the Tiffany dome.

Here is a series of photos of some of the fabulous mosaics in the building.  Truly these are “eye candy” of the first sort.

CCC understairI love the shape of stairs as they cross each other.  The underside of the stairs –all of them– have mosaics of famous authors.  The mosaic “frame” of each author’s name is handled differently on each stair. The closeup photo below is of a different stair with a different frame style for the author’s names than the frame style in the photo to the left. Every stair was different.

CCC understair closeupThe underside of the stairs, close up.  Bryant and Hawthorne are only two of the six writers on the underside of one of the “handles” of this T-shaped stair. Again the green and the gold predominate as a color scheme with accents of deep red, light beige and pink stones.





CCC medallionA mosaic rosette about 8″ in diameter (gives you an idea of the fine detailing of the pieces.)  Notice the shimmer of the gold mosaics and the various types of stone. I think the middle is mother-of-pearl.  There were three of these on every newel post of every stair.





CCC B FranklinA dedication to Benjamin Franklin (b. 1706, d. 1790), “founder of the circulating library.”  Notice the deep, and richly decorated coffered ceilings and the elaborate mosaic frame around the dedication. The lamps aren’t too shabby either!


CCC stair to domeThe stair leading up to the Tiffany dome.  They were practicing for a violin performance that evening.  We were the lucky attendees to the practice session.  Check out my public dropbox for a 21 second treat!




CCC dome typanumOne of the four pendentives at the lower corners of the dome.  I took a photo of this particular corner because it showed the double serpents of medicine.

I hope that you enjoyed this luscious architectural treat as much as I enjoyed visiting the library.


Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I analyzed Melinda Daffin Henningfield’s NGSQ article “A Family for William Gray of New Madrid County, Territory of Missouri,” about merging multiple men when there is a lack of documents, in this case due to the New Madrid earthquake.1  I also put some information pertinent to my case study into a table so it was easier to analyze.  Several “ah ha” moments were discovered. Finished incorporating the edits for my last SGS Bulletin.  I will print starting tomorrow.

1 Melinda Daffin Henningfeld, “A Family for William Gray of New Madrid County, Territory of Missouri,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 101 (September 2013) 307-228.


7 comments on “I love public libraries–even when they aren’t!

  1. Rachelle says:

    Gorgeous! Added to the many things I would like to do on my next trip to Chicago, including more architectural tours by the Chicago Architectural Foundation.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Amazing place. A good place to retreat to when the Park gets to be too much. There is even an under Michigan Ave. pedestrian connection. Doen’t forget to stop in a Eataly–great place to pick up a sandwich for the plane trip back but so much more. Two other favorites, both on the north side of the River–the Donut Vault and Frontera Grill.

      • Rachelle says:

        Thanks for the recommendations….very excited about the donuts, my weakness and yet so hard to find good ones!

  2. Lisa says:

    I love that place, too! I can’t visit Chicago without walking through at least one. Would have loved to see it in its heyday!

  3. Grace Keir says:

    I love seeing the beautiful colors in the mosaics. The mosaic rosette i saved as it would make a wonderful quilt block…..although I don’t like doing curves so my have to find someone else to try it.

  4. Dana Leeds, The Enthusiastic Genealogist says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!

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