25 Amazing Photos of Cincinnati’s Old Main Public Library Before It Was Demolished in 1955

Built in 1874 on the site reserved for an opera house, the Old Main Cincinnati Library was a thing of wonder. With five levels of cast iron shelving, a fabulous foyer, checker board marble floors and an atrium lit by a skylight ceiling, the place was breathtaking.

The library was once one of Cincinnati’s most stunning buildings… and one of the country’s most beautiful public libraries. Now it’s a parking garage. (The building, which was located in Downtown Cincinnati at 629 Vine St. — just a few blocks from the current Main Library — was demolished in 1955.) These photos remain, giving us a haunting glimpse into the past.

Cast-iron book alcoves lined the sides of the Main Hall.
Main Library, ca. late 19th century.
Newspaper room, 1899.
Reading Room, 1899.
Catalogers, 1899.
Vestibule, Main Library, ca. 1900. A glimpse of the Main Hall can be seen through the doorway at the top of the steps.
Main Hall, ca. 1900. Looking back towards the front entrance to the building.
Main Hall, ca. 1900.
This photograph of children using the stereoscope machines was taken in the Children’s Room of the “Old Main” library, ca. 1900s.
Foyer, Old Main
Children at Christmas. This appears to have been taken in the Children’s Department of the “Old” Main Library.
The library’s first Children’s Room opened in 1900. The first story hour was held there in 1901.
Main Library entrance Branch pages on the front steps of the building.
The Art Room was on the third floor of the building.
Using the stereopticon slides in the Children’s Room. This picture was taken in the early 1920s.
Charging desk
Children’s room, 1923.
Lantern Slide department. Alice Plaut (standing) conferring with another staff member.
Main Library facade, ca. 1940
Main Library entrance, ca. 1950s. Busts of Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare, and John Milton graced the facade of the building.
Main Library, ca. 1953. This picture was taken a couple of years before the building was torn down. By that time, the building was bursting at its seams with books, departments, and staff.
This picture of the Main Hall was taken in 1954, about a year before the building was closed.
Looking down at the reading area in the Main Hall.
One of the reading areas.
Fiction alcove

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