CINCINNATI PUBLIC LIBRARY
The first year of operation for the Cincinnati Library was 1855. 1,500 books were purchased for the Ohio School and Family Library and was located, for a short time, at Central High School on Longworth St. Which no longer exists. It was located north of 5th Street between Vine and Race. In 1856 the library was moved to the second floor of the Ohio Mechanics Institute on the corner of 6th and Vine. By 1868 the library moved to the building you see below. Located at 629 Vine Street the building was built originally to be used as the Truman B. Handy Opera House. That deal became bankrupt so the building was basically nothing but a four story auditorium. The center was nothing but a huge open well reaching from the floor to the roof. The books were kept on all 4 floors around the outside walls which, when built, had been the balcony and box seats for the opera house. Children were not allowed to go up there, their books were on the second floor in front. Since this arrangement would only hold 200,000 volumes, the remaining 800,000 books had to be housed in a library annex behind this building known as the Main Hall which opened four years later in 1874. There was also a third building behind this one.
Six non-postcard views of the inside of this library.
Because Hamilton County voters kept defeating bond issues to erect a new structure, it was not until 1955 before the library was able to move into the building seen below, 2 blocks north on the northeast corner of 8th and Vine Streets.
John T. Noland, Jr. Amelia Valerio Weinberg
Rare Book Room Memorial Fountain
Library's Tulip Tree Library's Garden Statue-Children's Dept. Atrium Signature Wall Bell
The Signature Wall is where hundreds of people, groups, and organizations have been honored with individually purchased and fashioned tiles permanently affixed into an original terra cotta design. The Bell, Located in the Browsing Room, is from the 3rd USS Cincinnati, and honors Hamilton County men who have served in the United States Navy.
A. Nielen's Lantern Slide Cabinet Birds of America Page from Gutenberg Bible
Donated to library Dec. 1936
The rare James Audubon's 4-volumn work Bird's of America is on permanent display in the Tower Room at the Public Library. The page from the original Gutenberg Bible printed by Johann Gutenberg (1400-1468) inventor of movable type printing is on permanent display in the Tower Room.
The present day aerial photograph above shows the library as it looks after its expansions over the years.
MERCANTILE LIBRARY BUILDING
These three cards are of the Mercantile
Library Building at 414 Walnut Street. In 1845 (before the existence of the
public library) 45 young businessmen founded the Young Men's Mercantile Library
Association "for the purpose of establishing a library and reading room, to
be appropriated for the use of young men engaged solely in mercantile
pursuits." In 1840 they moved their 1,660 books to the second floor of the
Cincinnati College building on this site. On January 19, 1845 the building
burned down but the books were saved thanks to the men of four fire companies
joining together to save the volumes. After the association raised $10,000 to
rebuild the College the library's attorney, Judge Alphonso Taft (the father of
President William Howard Taft), wrote an agreement that gave the
association a 10,000 year lease on the second floor of the College, rent
free. It cost $10,000 which equates to $1 per year.
By 1902 downtown land had increased in value so much that Thomas Emery's Sons bought the old College Building and struck a deal with the Mercantile Library Association. In exchange for its perpetual lease in the college, the library would receive new quarters on the 11th and 12th floors of the building you see in the cards below. There is a special elevator for the use of its members. The 10,000 year lease is still in effect and it is renewable forever. It is now (2014) 179 years old.
The library is not a public or municipal library. It is a members library with annual dues starting at $55 per year. There are currently 2,000 members.
The first image above is a very large photograph of the Mercantile Building taken in 1907. The orange building in the center of the aerial photograph above is the Mercantile Library building as seen from the rear.
The card above shows the demolition of a building on Main near Liberty in July of 1912 by the James L. Pence Co.
This card shows the demolition of a building in Mt. Healthy at 2nd and Hamilton.
P & G Twin Towers