The magnificent main library building in Toledo, Ohio was constructed with the aid of multiple New Deal agencies: the Public Works Administration (PWA), which supplied a large grant to the city for construction, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which supplied labor. The building, which bears a 1939 cornerstone, was dedicated on September 4, 1940.
“With a cost of nearly 2 million dollars, the Main Branch Library brought work to many Toledo workers and continues to be one of the best public libraries in the nation.”
One remarkable aspect of the building is the breathtaking frieze that wraps around above its main lobby. According to ToledoLibrary.org: “Displaying more than 80 colors of glass, the breathtaking murals in Main Library’s Central Court illustrate the history of arts and sciences in a variety of fields such as architecture, painting, music, philosophy, and industry. Designed by New York Artist John Benson (with the exception of the “Philosophy” panel, which was designed by Frank Sohn) the murals are six feet tall, and surround the atrium in a continuous frieze.” “The work was “created by inlaying ‘puzzle pieces’ of hand-cut art glass onto large panels of colored Vitrolite.” (Living New Deal has no evidence that separately ties this remarkable work directly to a New Deal agency.)
Elsewhere, “the massive columns in the court, as well as many other walls throughout Main Library, are surfaced with Vitrolite.”
The building has since been expanded, notably in 2001.
"Life - Always a Choice of Doors," by Ruth Lampe
Toledo News Bee, July 5, 1937
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on October 13, 2017.
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