Chicago Sights

Harold Washington Library Center

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

Published 08/31/2015

Fodor's Review

Opened in 1991 and named for Chicago's first African-American mayor, this library was primarily designed by architect Thomas Beeby, of Hammond, Beeby & Babka. Gargantuan and almost goofy, the 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, gargoyle-like sculptures atop the building include owls, a symbol of wisdom. The excellent Children's Library, an 18,000-square-foot haven on the second floor, 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.

Sight Information


400 S. State St., Chicago, Illinois, 60605, USA

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Sight Details:

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

Published 08/31/2015


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