Archive Photos Of The Old Cincinnati Library Before Being Demolished, 1874-1955

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Archive Photos Of The Old Cincinnati Library Before Being Demolished, 1874-1955
Archive Photos Of The Old Cincinnati Library Before Being Demolished, 1874-1955
Archive Photos Of The Old Cincinnati Library Before Being Demolished, 1874-1955

The old Cincinnati Library was built in 1874 and in 1955, after only 81 years of serving knowledge and news to the public, it was demolished. These archive photos are a living testament of Cincinnati’s fascinating past and they have been made available to the public by the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County.

When it was built, the library took the spot of what was supposed to be the city’s Opera House. It had five levels of iron shelving, an elegant foyer, checker board marble floors and an atrium with a very pretentious skylight ceiling.

“The main hall is a splendid work”, The Enquirer reported at the opening. “The hollow square within the columns is lighted by an arched clear roof of prismatic glass set in iron, the light of which is broken and softened by a paneled ceiling of richly-colored glass. One is impressed not only with the magnitude and beauty of the interior, but with its adaptation to the purpose it is to serve”.

Archive Photos Of The Old Cincinnati Library Before Being Demolished, 1874-1955
The Old Main in an early picture – Archive Photos Of The Old Cincinnati Library Before Being Demolished, 1874-1955
A glimpse of the Main Hall can be seen through vestibule.
The Newspaper Room (photo circa 1899)
The Newspaper Room (photo circa 1899)
People reading books
People reading books
Another view of the hall
Another view of the hall

The Old Cincinnati Library had a total cost of $383,594.53, which would amount to approximately $7.7 million today. The Cincinnati Public Library contained 60,000 volumes, but was built with an estimated capacity of 300,000.

Children inside the Old Main
Children inside the Old Main
Looking down at the reading area in the Main Hall
Looking down at the reading area in the Main Hall
Over the years the library wasn’t able to accommodate all the readers
Over the years the library wasn’t able to accommodate all the readers
The library’s main entrance
The library’s main entrance. These 3 heads were saved and placed in the new library’s garden.
The welcoming booth
The welcoming booth
This photo of the Main Hall was taken about a year before the building was closed
This photo of the Main Hall was taken about a year before the building was closed

Sadly, the building was demolished because even with 30 years before its demolition, the library was getting over crowded. Books started being stacked beyond reach and the building’s ventilation was doing any service in preserving these wonderful knowledge gems.

Cincinnati Readers
Cincinnati Readers
Completed in 1874, originally intended to be an opera house before the project went bankrupt, the modestly-sized building did not do justice to to the magnitude and beauty of the interior designed by architect J.W. McLaughlin
Completed in 1874, originally intended to be an opera house before the project went bankrupt, the modestly-sized building did not do justice to to the magnitude and beauty of the interior designed by architect J.W. McLaughlin
The Main Hall featured five tiers of cast-iron alcoves that housed over 200,000 books
The Main Hall featured five tiers of cast-iron alcoves that housed over 200,000 books

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The beautiful main hall
The beautiful main hall
Young readers
Young readers

In January 1955, on the same street, 800 Vine Street, a new public library had open. The old building was then sold off to Leyman Corp for what would amount to $100,000 in today’s dollars. By June 1955, the building was no more and the former site of the Old Cincinnati Library is not a parking lot.