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Old Cincinnati Public Library Portfolio

Old Cincinnati Public Library Portfolio

Handwritten on reverse: “Interior View of Public Library Showing Reading Room and Books. Cincinnati, Ohio.”

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 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. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is now one of the largest and busiest public libraries in the world and operates 41 branch locations




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