Towers of books as far as the eye can see, stacked decks, wrought iron railing, winding staircases, ornately crafted reliefs on the side of heavy wooden bookcases... sounds like the stuff of a book-lover's daydream, doesn't it? But it's real, or at least, it used to be. Take a photographic tour of the old Public Library of Cincinnati, one of the greatest libraries in America and, sadly, no more.
In 1955, this grand library was demolished to make way for a contemporary building down Vine Street, where today an unremarkable office building and parking lot fail to inspire any of the wonder of the old library.
This is the building, first developed in 1874, under demolition. What an absolute tragedy.
It was just as impressive on the exterior, with a delightful combination of decorative elements and the busts of William Shakespeare, John Milton and Benjamin Franklin.
For good reason, it was hailed as the "most magnificent public library in the country" during its time. It had a capacity for 300,000 books in its collection. It began construction as an opera house, but when the project went bankrupt, its transformation into the public library began. The building is actually quite modest in size; and it's brilliance in design gives it a sense of scale and grandeur.
Unfortunately, there was little to no protest when it came to the end of the line for this library. The ventilation system needed updating and the library collection had outgrown the building. Add to that to the post-war inflation, a series of financial problems and plans for a new library, and this building's sad fate was sealed.
In its last years, the Public Library of Cincinnati suffered neglect, finally being emptied out into the new building.
The building was then sold to Leyman Corp for the equivalent of $100,000 today and six months later, was reduced to rubble. Thankfully, someone thought to preserve the three busts. They were placed in the garden of the new library.
At least we still have these beautiful old photos and our imaginations.
Credit: Messy Nessy Chic