Pen & Ink Chronograph of Vine Street

an illustration of the Library’s evolution from antebellum Cincinnati to the present

The 1847 Ohio Mechanics’ Institute (1) at the southwest corner of Sixth and Vine streets. Notice the 12 “antenna” Gothic finials. In 1856, the Library moved to the second floor, merging its collection with the Mechanics’ library. The Library moved north in 1870, having bought Truman Handy’s bankrupt Opera House project at 629 Vine that year and hiring architect James McLaughlin to finish the four-story shell at the front of the property (2). The new Librarian William Frederick Poole had big ideas and, working with McLaughlin, he designed Main Hall with five levels of cast-iron book alcoves rising three stories to a fourth floor skylight (3). “Old Main” was brand new in 1874.

The Library moved again in 1955 to 800 Vine into a starkly modern New Main (4) designed by local architect Woodie Garber. The Huenefeld Tower Room on the roof (5) overlooked Garfield Park and the equestrian statue of William Henry Harrison. In 1989, the park was remodeled and Harrison swapped places with a statue of James Garfield. The 1982 expansion wrapped itself around three sides of the 1955 building (6) and featured and atrium topped by a skylight that reminded many of Main Hall in Old Main. In 1997, the new North Building at 900 Vine was connected to a heavily remodeled 800 Vine by a three-level glass & steel bridge (7). A central spiral staircase at 900 Vine reminds some of cast-iron spirals at 629 Vine.