“The Austin Branch of the Chicago Public Library” by S.M. O’Connor

The Austin Branch of the Chicago Public Library is a neoclassical library building located on Race Avenue in Austin (Community Area #25) on the West Side of Chicago.  It is on the south side of Race Avenue, at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Austin Town Hall Park.  The Austin Branch Library serves Austin, West Garfield Park (Community Area #26), East Garfield Park (Community Area #27), North Lawndale (Community Area #29), and Near West Side (Community Area #28).

Austin Town Hall Park is a rectangular park that is bounded by Race Avenue to the north, Central Avenue to the east, Lake Street to the south, and Parkside Avenue to the west.  Levin Park is one block to the southeast.  Lake Street separates Austin Town Hall Park from the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line.

In 1927, the City of Chicago transferred Holden Park to the West Park Commission, which later merged in 1934 with twenty-one other park districts to form the Chicago Park District.  The West Park Commission agreed since the old Austin Town Hall had long been used as a library to allow the Chicago Public Library to construct a new branch library in what was renamed Austin Town Hall Park.

The Beaux-Arts-style library was designed by Alfred S. Alschuler (1876-1940).  [Simultaneously, the West Park Commission built a Georgian Revival-style fieldhouse more than a little reminiscent of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  The architects were Michaelsen & Rognstad, who also designed the Garfield Park Gold Dome Building, the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse, the Douglas Park Fieldhouse, and the On Leong Chinese Merchant’s Association Building in Chinatown.]  Alschuler designed the Austin Branch Library in the Beaux-Arts style of neoclassical architecture.

Although it is mostly a red brick building, it features a stone pediment and Corinthian order columns.  Pairs of columns flank a graceful arched main entrance.  The library building was renovated between 1979 and 1981.

The mother house of the Fraternite Notre Dame is across the street, on the north side of Race Avenue in the former Gammon United Methodist Church.[1]  Frederick Douglas Academy High School, which is part of the Chicago Public Schools system, is one block to the northwest.[2]  St. Martin’s Episcopal Church is two blocks to the northwest.  The West Suburban Hospital Medical Center is a few blocks to the northwest in the inner-ring suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.

The community room can hold up to 130 people (100 seated) and cannot be divided.  It has three tables, 100 seats, a lectern, a screen, and a sink.  One can apply to book the room up to three months before the event, but not less than seven days before the event.  The branch manager must approve the event.  An applicant will be notified whether or not his or her application has been approved within three days.  Groups that book a room or both rooms combined are responsible for setup and takedown.

The Austin Branch Library is closed on Sundays.  It is open from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The address is 5615 West Race Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60644.  The phone number of the Austin Branch Library is (312) 746-5038.

 

ENDNOTES

[1] This is a novitiate and seminary for priests and friars and a novitiate for nuns of a Traditional Catholic religious order that is canonically irregular and not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Chicago.

[2] It takes up the block bounded by Ohio Street to the north, Parksdie Avenue to the east, Race Avenue to the south, and Waller Avenue to the west.

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