Architecture that makes you go wow

I have always been a fan of the old ways of things, my grandmother said it was because I was wise, others have told me I carry a old soul. For whatever the reason I old buildings must be my heart. I know that they contain all kinds of dangers, they can catch fire, they will fail in a earthquake but for the most part we lack appreciation for the craftsmen and designers of the past.

I  saw this photo of the interior a old Main library in Cincinnati Ohio and it really touched me, perhaps its the design perhaps its the books perhaps its imagining the smell of the place, or what was the content of 200,000 books in the date of this photo. It makes me think of my 1933  Webster’s 1933 dictionary that weighs about 30 pounds, but its full of such amazing words, and images.  That was the google of the day, as was this the world wide web.

Located at 629 Vine Street, on the west side, between 6th and 7th Streets, it is now referred to as “Old Main” Public Library. Completed in 1874 and designed by architect J.W. McLaughlin, the building was considered the “the most magnificent public library in the country”. The heads of Shakespeare, Milton and Franklin stood guard over the Main Entrance.

It was built in three sections, the first being the Lobby, which was a 4-story structure and contained offices and the Children’s Room. The second section was the Vestibule, the 3-story center of the building. For many years it housed the Reader’s Bureau and Lantern Slide collection and the Registration Desk. The building’s feature was it’s third section, with a 4-story atrium (as seen in this photograph) with five levels of cast iron alcoves, which could hold an enormous quantity of books. This Circulation area was the main part of the library. It was topped by a skylight and also had many library workrooms. The entire floor of the library was covered with a checker board marble floor.

Though the building was considered modern when it was built, having central heating and an elevator, by the 1920s the library had outgrown the building. A series of legal and financial problems caused problems and a new library was not built until 1955. The old building suffered from overcrowding and neglect during that years of it’s life and was demolished when a new building was completed at 800 Vine Street.

This is One of the large cast-iron book alcoves that lined the Main Hall.

Click to see a larger 2659 x2625 version  - Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Click to see a larger 2659 x2625 version – Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

A look at the outside of the building shows a wonderful exterior but almost hides the beauty inside.

The 1874 Building was designed by J.W. McLaughlin, Architect

In 1874 the Public Library of Cincinnati opened in a small building originally intended to be an opera house.

In 1874 the Public Library of Cincinnati opened in a small building originally intended to be an opera house. – Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Walking though the doors past great authors of history must have been inspiring. The heads of Shakespeare, Milton and Franklin stood guard over the Main Entrance.

The library’s main entrance.

The library’s main entrance. – Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

A glimpse of the Main Hall can be seen through vestibule, it reminds me of the scenes portrayed in Titanic of classical dining halls and greeting areas.

A glimpse of the Main Hall can be seen through vestibule.

A glimpse of the Main Hall can be seen through vestibule. – Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

The beautiful main hall. transports you to a steampunk era or at least what we would like to think, with some of the first electric lights installed Thomas Edison would be proud. I can only wonder who is pictured in these photos.

The beautiful main hall.

The beautiful main hall. Photo Credit – Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

This photo of the Main Hall was taken about a year before the building was closed.

This photo of the Main Hall was taken about a year before the building was closed. Photo Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

A wonderful room devoted to art of the world.

The Art Room, it was located on the third floor of the building.

The Art Room, it was located on the third floor of the building. – Photo Credit Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

In those days the Newspaper rooms were used to give access to the most current available papers from all over the nation and the world.

The Newspaper Room (photo circa 1899)

The Newspaper Room (photo circa 1899) Credit – Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

This photograph was taken from top level at the back corner of the atrium, facing towards the front of the building. Visible is the Catalog Desk and a bust of James Murdoch, the Cincinnati actor and public speaker (underneath the sign for ‘Fiction’). It is one of the few statues that survived the move to the “New Main” and can be found in the Literature & Languages section.

Looking down at the reading area in the Main Hall.

Looking down at the reading area in the Main Hall. Photo Credit ohiohistoryhost.org

Another view of the main Hall

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Main Hall, year unknown.

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Main Hall, year unknown. Photo Credit : tumblr vintagelibraries

Fiction yes there is a place for that, The Fiction Alcove

The Fiction Alcove

The Fiction Alcove – Creidt Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

There is a great discussion on Sanyers tumblr page about her dress (the woman pictured)

Step into the past of the Old Main Library!  You’ve probably seen this image from Cincinnati’s Old Main before—it’s been shared countless times on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. Now we’d like to share another view of the famed old atrium, courtesy of our Virtual Library team.  This image comes from an old lantern slide, and we guesstimate the year to be circa 1890. Katrina Marshall of our Digital Services team explains her detective work in aging the image:  I am not an expert … but the sleeves, especially on the woman in the center of the photo, caught my eye. “Leg of mutton” sleeves, with a tighter wrist and a puff of fabric at the shoulder, appear in the 1890s. And most women in the photo are dressed similarly, with a shirtwaist and ankle-length skirt, which became a popular style for working women of the time.  Here is a catalog link for a book Katrina referenced in her research.  The Old Main opened in 1874 and served Cincinnati until 1955, when it was torn down after the opening of the current Main Library. We still have many photographs, though, and these words from Harpers Weekly to recall its former grandeur:   “The first impression made upon the mind on entering this hall is the immense capacity for storing books in its five tiers of alcoves, and then the eye is attracted and gratified by its graceful and carefully studied architecture…”

This image comes from an old lantern slide, and we guesstimate the year to be circa 1890. Katrina Marshall of our Digital Services team explains her detective work in aging the image:
I am not an expert … but the sleeves, especially on the woman in the center of the photo, caught my eye. “Leg of mutton” sleeves, with a tighter wrist and a puff of fabric at the shoulder, appear in the 1890s. And most women in the photo are dressed similarly, with a shirtwaist and ankle-length skirt, which became a popular style for working women of the time. Credit Cincylibrary and Sanyers tumblr