A Beauty With Books: Cleveland Public Library

February 25th, 2013 Posted in Architecture, Art, Downtown

One of our favorite buildings ever proudly resides at 325 Superior Ave., N.E. in the heart of Cleveland’s downtown. You would be amazed at how many life-long Clevelanders, much less recently moved-to-the-CLE residents, have never been inside the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library. Besides its architectural elegance, it is also a fabulous library with a rich, deep collection of books and resources for us to investigate.

The 1925 building is on the left, the 1997 Louis Stokes Wing is on the right.

“The Cleveland Public Library first opened as a “Public School Library” for the Cleveland Board of Education in 1869. It was the first large public library to allow people to select their own books directly from its bookshelves.”*

The Cleveland Public Library’s main branch was begun in 1923 and opened in 1925. Cleveland’s City Beautiful movement conceived The Group Plan of 1903, when the city was attempting to design the downtown in an orderly way. An early example of urban planning, the plan designed a group of six buildings (CPL, Federal Building, Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland City Hall, Public Auditorium, Board of Education Building) to be built with similar design features and classical architectural motifs. 

The Library’s second building, the Louis Stokes Wing, was completed in 1997. The Eastman Reading Garden stands between the two buildings and is open in the warmer weather months, spring through fall.

Exquisite window details

The interior of the building is full of beautiful details at every turn. The Botticino marble, the carved wood, the leaded glass windows, the plaster moldings, the painted ceilings- all are there for the viewing. Overall, the library is maintained well. The Library’s Fine Art Department is one of the best in the nation. We have never gone there and not found what we needed, however obscure. And if they don’t have it, they’ll find it for you. Their archives are to-die-for.

Main entrance ceiling
The murals in the main entrance and the main hall (below) were all painted on large pieces of canvas that were fastened overhead, rather than the murals being painted directly on the ceiling.


A walk through our main library yielded this treasure trove of architectural features. 

Main Hall ceiling


Amazing ceiling!


Gorgeous door and window in the main floor’s Brett Hall.


Brett Hall ceiling

 The mural was created in 1934 as one of the Public Works of Art Projects, part of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

“Early Transportation” (Cleveland’s Waterfront about 1835), 1934
Donald Duer Bayard               oil on canvas


Enjoy the building’s stunning details…





Cleveland Public Library
325 Superior Ave., N.E.
Cleveland, OH 44114

(216) 623-2800

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