Harold Washington Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Well, I wasn't anticipating a visit to a library on our weekend in Chicago. (See previous post) But a truly fabulous one sort of fell in our laps. While I was making my purchases at Sandmeyer's, Ellen happened to mention that the bookstore sometimes works in cooperation with a library only a couple of blocks away. So when we found ourselves back out on the sidewalk, I asked my husband if maybe we should stroll a couple of blocks to check it out before catching a cab to our next bookstore destination. “Why not?” he said, and off we went in the direction of the city. Upon inquiry, a friendly passerby assured us that we were headed in the right direction, and within a few minutes, we stood gazing at the imposing edifice that is the Harold Washington Library.
A bright blue, cloudless sky formed a magnificent backdrop for this impressive structure. Providing a majestic symbol of the wisdom to be gained within, two enormous owls peer down from the corners of the pediment atop the stately building. The inside is just as impressive. Huge is almost an understatement. We followed a long, marble hallway to a central atrium with escalators leading to the floors above. The amount of marble on floors, walls, door frames, and even a desk put me in mind of my visit to the Library of Congress.
The main library for the Chicago Public Library system, the Harold Washington Library is relatively new, opening in 1991. It was named for Harold Washington, the city's first African American mayor.
Quotes about books, reading and libraries grace many of the walls. My favorite was one by T. S. Eliot, “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.”
Unfortunately, we were unable to view the children's library as it was closed for renovations, but we were very fortunate in another regard. Currently on loan to the library is a striking art installation entitled Above And Beyond, a part of the National Veteran's Art Museum Collection. The piece is comprised of 58,307 dog tags representing the death of military personnel in the Vietnam War and each stamped with the soldier's name, date of death, and military branch. These dog tags hang in an awe-inspiring formation over an open escalator. Above And Beyond is the only installation other than The Wall in Washington D. C. that memorializes all those killed in action during that tragic war.
How fitting that I am writing this blog post on Memorial Day. And how glad we were that we decided to take time out to visit this amazing library. It was indeed an unexpected bonus.