The T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library, at 4904 South Lake Park Avenue, in Hyde Park-Kenwood on the South Side of Chicago, is often cited as the city’s first branch library. However, the George C. Walker Branch Library in Morgan Park on the Far South Side of Chicago is older as it was built in 1889-1890. Furthermore, in the third volume of Bessie Louise Pierce’s A History of Chicago, she stated the Chicago Public Library had twenty-nine delivery stations by 1892 and six branch libraries in 1894. What is true is that the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library was the first purpose-built library building to be erected as a branch of the Chicago Public Library.
Figure 1 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library as seen on Friday, May 28, 2010. The Chicago Public Library’s T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library combines a hexastyle (six-columned) portico inspired by the Erechtheum in Athens with a Roman dome. It bears a slight resemblance to Villa Rotunda in Italy.
Originally, the George C. Walker Library was a municipal library for a suburb of Chicago. Lumberman and philanthropist George C. Walker (1835-1905) contributed $12,000 to construct a library for the Village of Morgan Park, which was then a suburb, as well as $1,000 to fill it with books. In 1894, the Village of Morgan Park transferred administration of the library to The University of Chicago, an arrangement that lasted for ten years. In 1914, the City of Chicago annexed the Village of Morgan Park, the village library became the third branch of the Chicago Public Library, and the Chicago Public Library renamed its newly acquired branch library in honor of its builder. Today, it serves the neighborhoods of Morgan Park and Beverly.
The T.B. Blackstone Memorial Library was a gift to the Chicago Public Library from Isabella Farnsworth Norton Blackstone (1838-1928) in honor of her late husband. She was the widow of Timothy Beach Blackstone (1851-1900). Timothy B. Blackstone was one-term Mayor of La Salle, Illinois in the mid-1850s; founder of the town of Mendota, Illinois; President of the Joliet & Chicago Railroad from 1861 to 1864; an incorporator of the Union Stock Yards & Transit Company in 1865 and first president of the Union Stock Yards; and President of the Chicago & Alton Railroad from 1864 to 1899. He died at the age of seventy-one of pneumonia in his mansion on Michigan Avenue, which is now the site of the Blackstone Hotel.
Isabel Blackstone, who had inherited the bulk of her husband’s fortune, proposed to build the Timothy B. Blackstone Memorial Library to the Board of Directors of the Chicago Public Library in 1901. She laid the cornerstone on June 23, 1902. During this ceremony, she used the same mason’s trowel that her husband had earlier used to lay the cornerstone for a public library in his hometown he had built as a memorial for his father. The opening ceremony was held on January 8, 1904. A short while later, Mrs. Blackstone was presented with a satin-lined box that contained a keepsake book, bound in a bronze and leather cover, of photographs of the library. Many neighborhood residents and other Chicagoans had signed the book to express their thanks. At first, the Blackstone Memorial Library had its own board of directors.
The lot was bounded by Washington Avenue to the west, 49th Street to the north, and a spur of 49th Street that connects to South Lake Park Avenue to the east. The east elevation of the building is the front. Washington Avenue, the street west of (behind) the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Library, was later re-named Blackstone Avenue in honor of Timothy B. Blackstone and his eponymous library.
The Beaux-Arts design of architect Solon S. Beman (1853-1914) was inspired at least in part by the Erechtheum on the Acropolis in Athens. With his mentor, Richard Upjohn (1802-1878), Beman had helped design the Connecticut State Capitol. Beman is best remembered in Chicago for his work for George M. Pullman (1831-1897) and the Pullman Palace Car Company, especially Pullman Town (now the Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago). [Beman also designed the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, New York, which is a memorial for the parents of George Pullman, and Castle Rest for Pullman on Pullman Island, one of the Thousand Islands, an archipelago on the St. Lawrence River in New York.] His work in Pullman included Hotel Florence, Greenstone Church, Market Hall, and the Pullman Administration Building. For the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, he designed the Fine Arts Building (originally called the Studebaker Building) at 410 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago; the Romanesque-style Pioneer Building in Saint Paul, Minnesota; and the J.M.S. Building in South Bend, Indiana. Mansions he designed in Chicago that remain standing include the W.W. Kimball Mansion at 1801 Prairie Avenue; the Marshall Field, Jr. Mansion at 1919 South Prairie; and the Griffiths-Burroughs House at 3804 South Michigan Avenue.
The original T.B. Blackstone Memorial Library building designed by Beman is rectangular in shape and measures 110 feet by 60 feet. It rests on a plinth to raise it above street level. Beman designed the library to hold 1,500 to 2,000 books. The Blackstone Memorial Branch Library has many decorative touches one would not expect to see in a branch library. Exterior walls are made of light-gray Concord granite. At the center of the east elevation is a portico (a colonnaded front porch) that features six fluted columns of the Ionic order. This is one of three orders of classical architecture, the other two being Doric and Corinthian. The use of six columns makes this a hexastyle portico. Broad steps lead up to the portico, which is flanked by two wings. The portico faces east onto a spur of 49th Street that leads to South Lake Park Avenue.
Engraved in the frieze of the entablature, above the columns and below the pediment, are the words, “T.B. Blackstone Memorial.” There are acroteria at the corners and peak of the pediment like at the Museum of Science and Industry. The building that houses the latter organization was designed and built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the World’s Columbian Exposition.  In addition to the pediment atop the portico, there are also pediments on the north and south ends of the building, as well as the west (rear) side of the building. These cap faux porticos called engaged porticos. The west engaged portico, which faces Blackstone Avenue, features a pediment above two engaged columns of the Ionic order and four pilasters of the Doric order. The engaged portico on the north side has two Ionic engaged columns and four Doric pilasters, while the engaged portico on the south side has six Doric pilasters. The aforementioned addition that opened in 1939 obstructs the view of most of the engaged portico on the south side of the building. The two wings of the building each have three wide window bays on the east side and another three window bays on the west side. Along the two wings of the building, the façade features Doric order pilasters between the window bays. There are another three narrow window bays in the case of the west engaged portico. The central window bay is between the Ionic order engaged columns in place of a doorway. There are another two window bays between the two Ionic order engaged columns and two of the four Doric order pilasters. The engaged portico of the north elevation has a doorway, which is between the engaged columns, rather than any window bays. This is the case despite the fact there are no stairs leading up to this engaged portico. The north and south wings are topped on their east and west sides by granite balustrades. Although Beman largely borrowed from the Erechtheum, he added a dome from ancient Roman architecture. The dome is crowned by an anthemion ring. The original doors of the main entrance are made of bronze and copper. Today, while the library is open, one must pass through a pair of glass doors to see the metal doors, then cross a small vestibule, and pass through two more glass doors to enter the rotunda.
Figure 2 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The transom above the front doors of the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library as seen on Friday, May 28, 2010. The address is on the transom above the front doors. Above the transom is a latticework transom grill.
Figure 3 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The front doors of the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library as seen from the vestibule on Friday, May 28, 2010. After being exposed to sunlight for over a century, the copper-and-bronze doors have changed color on the outward-facing side.
Figure 4 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: Sunlight streaming between the front doors of the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library as seen from the vestibule on Friday, May 28, 2010. The side of the copper-and-bronze doors facing inside the vestibule retain their original bronze coloring.
Figure 5 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The glass inner doors of the vestibule of the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library as seen from the vestibule on Friday, May 28, 2010. This is a view of the rotunda from inside the vestibule.
Beman had designed the aforementioned James Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford, Connecticut, which opened in 1896. Timothy B. Blackstone paid to build it, fill it with books, and endow it in honor of his late father after he learnt that city fathers wanted to raise money for a public library. The Timothy B. Blackstone Memorial Library is similar to, but much smaller than the James Blackstone Memorial Library, which opened with a collection of 6,000 books. In addition to the direct influence of the Erechtheum, Beman was likely also influenced by Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), author of Quatro Libbri (Four Books on Architecture). The larger James Blackstone Memorial Library strongly resembles Villa Rotunda in Vicenza, Italy, designed by Palladio. Villa Rotunda has a Roman dome and a Greek portico. Ida Hinman recounted the foundation of both libraries in her Biography of Timothy B. Blackstone. This was a pamphlet or booklet published in 1917.
The origin of these library building designs can be traced back to the Merchant Tailors Building, one of several buildings Beman designed for Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893). The World’s Columbian Exposition celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage of discovery in 1492. The White City temporarily stood as part of the White City fairgrounds in Jackson Park, a few blocks from where the T. B. Blackstone Memorial Branch Library now stands. In between the construction of the two Blackstone libraries, Beman also adapted this design in 1897 for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 4019 South Drexel Boulevard in Chicago. This was the first church built by the Church of Christ, Scientist, and with a change in congregations evolved into the Grant Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church. It became the model for numerous other Christian Scientist churches.
Both of the Blackstone Memorial Libraries are examples of the City Beautiful movement that sprang out of the World Columbian Exposition’s White City. The City Beautiful movement in architecture and city planning called for monumental architecture for public buildings; the integration of modern mass transportation systems; wide, clean sidewalks; plentiful public parks; and landscaping around public buildings and along roads. Proponents hoped that clean cities that emphasized grandiose public buildings in tranquil settings would help inspire the citizenry to aspire to civic virtue, moral behavior, and social harmony. After the board of the World’s Columbian Exposition Company appointed him Director of Public Works for the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair on October 30, 1890, the architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) named his partner John Wellborn Root Sr. (1850-1891) the supervising architect and the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr. (1822-1903) the supervising landscape architect. Burnham subsequently developed quite the reputation as an urban planner for submissions for Washington, D.C. (1902); the Philippine capital city of Manila (1905); and San Francisco, California (1906). With an employee, Edward H. Bennett (1874-1954), Burnham and Bennett drafted The Plan of Chicago between 1906 to 1909 at the behest of Chicago’s Merchants Club and The Commercial Club of Chicago. In 1909, Burnham commissioned Jules Guérin to illustrate The Plan of Chicago. These drawings were exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, and subsequently in Philadelphia, Boston, London, and Düsseldorf. The Plan of Chicago, published in 1909, was circulated amongst Commercial Club members and public institutions. In November of that year, Mayor Fred Busse (1866-1914) urged the Chicago Common Council to adopt The Plan of Chicago and approve his appointment of the Chicago Plan Commission, which would seek ways to set The Plan of Chicago into effect.
In addition to having founded the James Blackstone Memorial Library, Timothy Beach Blackstone had also sat on the Board of Directors of The John Crerar Library before his death. [The trustees of the John Crerar estate, Norman Williams and Huntington W. Jackson, incorporated The John Crerar Library in 1894. In addition to Williams and Jackson, Crerar stipulated the following friends of his or their heirs would also serve as founding members of The John Crear Library Board of Directors: Marshall Field I, E. W. Blatchford, T. B. Blackstone, Robert T. Lincoln, Henry W. Bishop, Edward G. Mason, Albert Keep, Edson Keith, Simon J. McPherson, John M. Clark, and George A. Armour.] Thus, his widow’s decision to build a public library as a memorial to him was particularly appropriate.
Figure 6 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The rotunda as seen from the mezzanine of the stack (shelving) room on Friday, May 28, 2010. The first floor of the stack (shelving) room, south of the rotunda, features marble wainscoting. The Blackstone Branch Library’s Ionic columns are also borrowed from the Erectheum in Athens.
Figure 7 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The rotunda, and, beyond, the main reading room, as seen from the first floor of the stack room on Friday, May 28, 2010.
Figure 8 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The marble rotunda includes niches for bronze lamps, as seen on Friday, May 28, 2010.
The octagonal rotunda is clad in veined white marble with niches for bronze lamps. The inclusion of niches is another example of an architectural element Beman borrowed from ancient Rome rather than ancient Greece. Ionic order columns grace the octagonal rotunda. The Ionic order is one of three orders of classical architecture, the other two being Doric and Corinthian. There are Italian marble mosaic tile floors in the rotunda. At the center is a red marble disk. Green, yellow, and cream-colored marble mosaics radiate out from it. Openings in the rotunda that lead to the stacks and reading rooms are framed by Ionic order columns. There are rectangular marble tile floor mosaics between the columns.
Figure 9 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The rotunda under the dome has a mosaic marble tile floor.
Figure 10 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This is an example of the Blackstone Branch Library’s tile floor mosaics between two Ionic order columns.
The lunette ceiling (semi-circular) murals of the rotunda were the work of painter Oliver Dennett Grover (1861-1927). Each lunette mural measures fourteen feet by nine feet. At the center of each mural is an allegorical figure. Every allegorical figure is a winged woman like an angel from Christian iconography. Grover painted each mural on canvass. They were attached to the plaster surface of the dome with white lead. Between the murals are pendentive arches. Every arch is decorated with a papyrus plant to represent the source of paper in ancient Egypt.
Figure 11 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: At the center of the mural Literature sits enthroned the allegorical figure Literature. She is a winged woman with a scroll, surrounded by an old man writing in a book who represents history, a woman with a lute who represents poetry, a woman casting posies who represents fiction, and a woman with a mask who represents drama.
Figure 12 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: At the center of the mural Art sits enthroned the allegorical figure Art. She is a winged woman with a mirror, surrounded by four women: a painter, a sculptor, an architect, and a musician.
Figure 13 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: At the center of the mural Science sits enthroned the allegorical figure Science. She is a winged woman with a lamp, surrounded by a topless woman with a peacock and rabbits who represents zoology, a woman with a telescope who represents astronomy, a woman with a hammer who represents geology, and a man with a beaker who represents chemistry. At the feet of the chemist is a baby with a bellows who is blowing air into a brazier the chemist can use to heat chemicals.
Figure 14 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: At the center of the mural Labor sits enthroned the allegorical figure Labor. She is a winged woman with a mason’s trowel, surrounded by a seated miner with a pickaxe, a standing woman who is weaving at a loom with a child at her feet who holds a horn of plenty, a woman holding a model steam locomotive, and a seated man who represents farming.
Grover had earlier collaborated with Beman on the Merchant Tailors’ Building and the James Blackstone Memorial Library. Grover had a studio in the Fine Arts Building, but he painted the murals for the Timothy B. Blackstone Memorial Library at Mrs. Beman’s photography studio in Kenwood.
Figure 15 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The dome above the rotunda has an oculus with leaded-glass skylights. Originally, sunlight poured through it, but today it is backlit.
The dome has an oculus with leaded-light skylights bordered by plaster beams. The two wings also have skylights, but they have been covered over from the outside.
The mezzanine in the stack room south of the rotunda has a floor comprised of one-and-a-half-inch-thick slabs of structural glass. This allows natural and artificial light on the mezzanine level to reach the stacks on the lower level. The mezzanine’s decorative railing has a bronze medallion with a low-relief bust of Timothy B. Blackstone by American sculptor William L. Couper (1853-1942). Couper sat on an advisory committee of the World’s Columbian Exposition.
Figure 16 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The bronze-and-steel shelving units in the stacks have built-in lamps.
Figure 17 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The view out this window in the stacks is ruined by the addition that opened in 1939, but at least it still admits daylight.
Figure 18 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: One ascends to the mezzanine level by taking one of two staircases.
Figure 19 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This is the stack room, south of the rotunda. The Timothy B. Blackstone bronze plaque on the mezzanine level was the work of American sculptor William L. Couper (1853-1942).
Figure 20 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: A bronze relief of a dolphin intertwined with a combined anchor/trident appears above a basin outside the Branch Librarian’s Office, across from the check-out desk in the south wing of the original building.
There are two reading rooms, the larger one to the north of the rotunda and the smaller one to the west. Both reading rooms feature mahogany wainscoting, built-in shelving, and window openings with pediments. Both reading rooms have their original tables.
Figure 21 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This globe in the larger reading room was not original to the building, but has been in it since shortly after the T.B. Blackstone Memorial Library opened.
In 1929, the Chicago Public Library purchased an adjacent building, one of five townhouses on Blackstone Avenue designed by famed architect Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926). The intention was to demolish it to make way for an addition, but due to the onset of the Great Depression, this did not take place for nearly ten years. In the meantime, some functions of the Blackstone Branch Library took place inside the townhouse. The Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works built the Children’s Annex, as it was originally called, in 1938-39 as a public works project during the Great Depression. The P.W.A. paid 45% of the cost of erecting the Children’s Annex. Finally, in 1939, the Children’s Annex opened. It had a separate entrance so the arrival and departure of children would not disturb adult readers. The one-story Children’s Annex measures ninety-six feet by thirty-five feet. It is clad in Indiana limestone like the Museum of Science and Industry. Today, it is called the Children’s Room.
Figure 22 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This is the west elevation of the addition that was originally called the Children’s Annex when the P.W.A. built it in 1939.
In 1980, the Blackstone Branch Library underwent renovation. Founded in 2003, an advisory council, Friends of the Blackstone Library, helped organize a celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Blackstone Branch Library in 2004.
On the east side of the building, there is a semi-circular granite exedra (bench) in front of the south wing of the original building. The granite exedra is flanked by plinths (short columns with flat tops) that are capped by ornaments that repeat the acroteria motif from the building’s pediments). There is also a wheelchair access ramp that winds up the east and south sides of the addition.
Figure 23 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The granite exedra is in front of the south wing of the original building.
Figure 24 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The wheelchair-access ramp is in front of the addition that opened in 1939. For most of its length, it is parallel with the granite exedra.
Figure 25 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The granite exedra is flanked by plinths (short columns with flat tops) that have caps that repeat the imagery of the acroteria from the pediments.
Figure 26 Photo by Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The cap of the plinth at one corner of the concrete bench (and close to the recently added wheelchair access ramp) repeats imagery of the acroteria from the roof.
The Chicago Public Library was able to cleanse and restore the murals thanks to a grant from the University of Illinois. This was necessary to reverse damage caused by age and water infiltration. After they underwent renovation, Library Commissioner Mary A. Dempsey publicly unveiled Grover’s murals Literature, Science, Labor, and Art on August 26, 2009. This event was previewed on Chicago’s N.P.R. (National Public Radio) station, W.B.E.Z.
The whole library is not visible from South Lake Park Avenue, because of a garage structure on South Lake Park Avenue that obstructs the view. However, the central part of the building, including the dome and portico; the south wing; and the entirety of an addition that opened in 1939 can be seen by car and bus drivers and passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists on South Lake Park Avenue when they are south of the 49th Street spur that connects to South Lake Park Avenue, and they are parallel with Kenwood Academy School’s track.
Like all libraries in the Chicago Public Library System, the Blackstone Branch Library has free wireless access to the Internet. Currently, it is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and is closed on Sundays. The phone number is (312) 747-0511. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
 This is a revision of the first article I published on Examiner.com Chicago in May of 2010.
 The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts. Unlike other exhibition halls built for the World’s Columbian Exposition, which were railroad sheds with plaster façades, the Palace of Fine Arts had a brick substructure. It was designed by Charles Atwood (1849-1895), who was Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition. After the World’s Columbian Exposition, it housed the Columbian Field Museum, which moved – as the Field Museum of Natural History – to new quarters in Burnham Park in 1920. Sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) persuaded the South Park Commission (which later merged with Chicago’s other park districts to form the Chicago Park District) not to demolish the P.F.A. (because its plaster façade had fallen into disrepair). Voters approved a $5,000,000 bond issue to repair the building and convert it into a mixed-use facility with two museums. Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, talked to his fellow members of The Commercial Club of Chicago about founding a science museum modeled on the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterworks of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria. He galvanized them by pledging $3,000,000 to endow the Museum of Science and Industry. He and his heirs ended up paying to complete construction of a new limestone façade as well as a new interior of the building, which exceeded the South Park District’s $5,000,000 budget.
 An engaged column is one that is semi-detached or three-quartered-detached from the wall from which it emerges.
 Pilasters are shallow, purely decorative columns that project outward from walls without fully emerging from the walls.
 An anthemion is comprised of radiating petals. Originally, the ancient Greeks used this motif exclusively on pottery, but later Greek (and still later) Roman architects used it to embellish buildings. They were inspired by the lotus blossom in ancient Egyptian and Asiatic architecture.
 This includes his design for the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is now the University of Pittsburgh’s Child Development Center. For the Church of Christ, Scientist, Beman also oversaw construction of the Mother Church Extension in Boston, which had been designed in the Byzantine style by Charles Brigham (1841-1925) as an annex of the Romanesque-style Mother Church.
 After Root’s death, Burnham hired Atwood to replace Burnham, first as chief designer of his firm, B.H. Burnham & Company, and then as Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition.
 Bennett was an English-born architect educated at the École des Beaux-Arts who came to Chicago and was hired by D.H. Burnham & Company in 1903. He had already co-authored with Burnham the Report on a Plan for San Francisco (1905).
 In 1907, The Merchants Club of Chicago merged with The Commercial Club of Chicago. The Commercial Club of Chicago would later go on to sponsor the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo and Sears, Roebuck & Company President Julius Rosenwald’s Museum of Science and Industry.
 Eliphalet Wickes Blatchford, founder of E.W. Blatchford & Company, was also a trustee of the W. L. Newberry estate and as such a co-founder of The Newberry Library.
 The John Crerar Library Officers, Committees, By-Laws and Record of Organization. Chicago (1916), p. 16
 This federal agency was also known as the Public Works Administration (P.W.A.) and is not to be confused with its sister agency, the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). The Chicago Public Library erroneously stated on its old Web site this was a W.P.A. project.