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"The Harold Washington Library Center" Top 5 Page for this destination Illinois Things to Do Tip by traveldave

Illinois Things to Do: 139 reviews and 248 photos


The Harold Washington Library Center is the central library for the Chicago Public Library System. Named for a former mayor of Chicago, the 756,640-square-foot (70,294-square-meter) building is the largest public library building in the world.

The ten-story building was constructed between 1987 and 1991. It was designed by the architectural firm of Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge Architects. Their design was the winning entry in a design competition held to replace the old central library. The Beaux Art design was inspired by the nearby and historic Rookery, Auditorium, and Monadnock buildings. Seven large aluminum acroteria (Classic-style architectural ornaments that are mounted at the apex of a building's pediment) adorn the roofline. Designed by Kent Bloomer and Raymond Kaskey, some of the acroteria feature owls, the Greek symbol of knowledge, and others incorporate symbols of the Midwest.

Although a public library is generally not a place visited by tourists, anyone interested in architecture who visits Chicago should at least pass by to view this huge building.

Directions: The Harold Washington Library Center is located at 400 South State Street, in downtown Chicago.

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  • Updated Sep 30, 2012
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