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Chicago Sights

Harold Washington Library Center

  • 400 S. State St. Map It
  • South Loop
  • Library/Archive

Updated 06/11/2013

Fodor's Review

The library, which opened in 1991 and is named for the first African-American mayor of Chicago, was primarily designed by architect Thomas Beeby, of Hammond, Beeby & Babka. Gargantuan and almost goofy, this granite-and-brick edifice is a uniquely postmodern homage to Chicago's great architectural past. The heavy, rusticated ground level recalls the Rookery; the stepped-back, arched windows are a reference to the great arches in the Auditorium Theatre; the swirling

terra-cotta design is pinched from the Marquette Building; and the glass curtain wall on the west side is a nod to 1950s modernism. The huge, gargoylelike sculptures atop the building include owls, a symbol of wisdom. The excellent Children's Library on the second floor, an 18,000-square-foot haven, has vibrant wall-mounted figures by Chicago imagist Karl Wirsum. Works by noted Chicago artists are displayed along a second-floor walkway above the main lobby. There's also an impressive Winter Garden with skylights on the ninth floor. Free programs and performances are offered regularly.

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Sight Information


400 S. State St., Chicago, Illinois, 60605, United States

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Sight Details:

  • Mon.–Thurs. 9–9, Fri. and Sat. 9–5, Sun. 1–5

Updated 06/11/2013


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Jun 11, 2007

Beautiful Library

This library blew my mind the first time I saw it. Note the top of the library is surrounded by glass and on that top floor there are receptions, parties, etc... On the top of the roof there are classic gargoyles that hover over the city. Inside the library is just as impressive with marble floors and walls. Every book that is published there has be two copies in the Harold Washington Library. This is a great resource for any in print publication.

Each floor is by genre and the library assistance is excellent. I love to go here not only to check out books, but for piece and quiet, to write, and just simply to read. They also allow free public internet access. This is a great place to get away from the cold or heat, and the noise of the city.

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