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Chicago’s Newberry Library is getting an $11 million ground floor makeover

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The Near North architectural gem will add new public galleries, a bookstore, and coffee shop

Newberry Library sits at the north edge of Chicago’s Washington Square Park
Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/Brule Laker

The landmarked Newberry Library building in Chicago’s Gold Coast is moving forward with an ambitious plan to renovate 26,000 square feet of public space on the granite-clad, Romanesque structure’s ground floor. Built in 1893 by architect Henry Ives Cobb, the building at 60 W. Walton Street is recognized as an outstanding independent research library but is currently somewhat cut-off from the general public.

The planned renovations hope to cure this with new galleries dedicated to showing off notable items from the Newberry’s collection of historic books, maps, and manuscripts. According to the Sun-Times, stand-out pieces in library’s extensive catalog include Chicago’s sole copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, original letters belonging to Alexander Hamilton, and copies of the Federalist papers with personal annotations by author Thomas Jefferson.

Efforts to make the Newberry more welcoming will add landscaping and remove fencing near the structure’s entrance. The plan will also create a new information center, expand the current bookstore, and add a lounge area with free self-serve coffee stations. Original architectural details in the lobby will be restored and an existing event space and lecture hall known as Ruggles Hall will be rehabbed.

The $11 million project is already 40 percent funded thanks to donor contributions, reports DNAinfo. With the blessing of Chicago’s Landmark Commission, work is expected to begin in January 2018 and take six months to complete. Boston-based Ann Beha Architects will serve as lead designer.

Newberry Library
Newberry Library
Newberry Library