This Place Matters: Preservation Research in Cleveland


by Tara Smith, M.A. candidate, Historic Preservation

I have lived in the Northeast Ohio area almost my entire life. Trips to Cleveland were kind of a special event but I was stunned when we visited the Cleveland Public Library for a Historic Preservation field trip and realized that I had been missing out on a beautiful piece of the city. For those of you who have never seen the CPL from the outside or inside, I highly recommend it for either your future scholarly needs or just to experience a gem of Cleveland history and architecture.

The CPL now consists of two buildings, the first of which was built in 1925 as part of the Group Plan to develop the area of downtown Cleveland. The Beaux Arts architectural style has many beautiful details and shows how influential and thriving the city of Cleveland used to be. I, as well as other historic preservationists, believe that these buildings must be protected and their legacies maintained.

The newer building which stands directly next to the older wing is the Louis. B. Stokes wing, built in 1991. Accessible through its own doors as well as a tunnel connecting the two buildings, the Stokes wing adds a feel of modernity in comparison to the classical feeling of the original building. In addition, a peaceful reading garden lies between the two, an interesting feature that draws the reader away from the busy streetscape.

Once inside these two buildings, the architectural and stylistic details do not disappoint. Holding almost 10 million items, the average reader and researcher can easily find anything they are looking for. The rooms are arranged for ease of use, an important feature that was emphasized before the library was even built. There are many special collections including rare books, maps, government documents and large photograph collection. Each of these areas has their own specialist willing to assist.

As most of you are probably also from Ohio, I am curious as to how many others did not know about the existence of this beautiful library. I will be returning many times in the future for my graduate research and recommend all of you do as well.

About Bari Oyler Stith, Ph.D.

Director, Historic Preservation Program, Ursuline College

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