Maze Branch LibraryThe Maze Branch, formerly known as the South Branch, sits at the corner of Harrison Street and Gunderson Avenue.
In Feb. 1936 the Tribune reported Oak Park would be building a new branch of their public library thanks to a grant from the Public Works Administration (PWA). Library directors proposed the idea for the expansion. They wanted the South Branch of the library, which opened in 1915, to be moved to a new location at the corner of Gunderson Avenue and Harrison Street. A new site was purchased and a budget of $65,000 was proposed, $22,677 of which would be covered by the PWA. Construction got underway and by the fall of 1936 the South Branch of the Oak Park public library had a new home, later to be renamed the “Adele H. Maze Branch” in 1957 in honor of a well-known librarian in the community that passed away.
The Tribune article stated E.E. Roberts and Elmer C. Roberts were the architects hired to design the new building and its surroundings. The duo decided to construct a building that had Georgian design and resembled the Regency period of English architecture, using red brick with white stone trim. The inside of the building used the same themes. Oak shelving lined the walls and white oak beams stretch from the floor to the ceiling, while a fireplace with a pink Tennessee marble hearth sits in the main reading room.
In July 2005 asbestos was discovered in the building and it was closed for renovation, according to the branch’s website. All of the books and collections were moved off-site in order to properly remove the dangerous infestation. At the same time a portion of the west end of the building was demolished and an addition was built in its place. The new space added an elevator for better handicap access and expanded shelving. Other renovations during that time include removal of the white beams, upgrades to heating and air-conditioning as well as new, large windows that improved overall lighting.
To this day numerous events are held inside the Maze Branch, like story time for children and movie screenings for teens. The branch was honored in 2006 with a Cavalcade of Pride award, which acknowledges properties that demonstrate excellent maintenance and beautification in the Oak Park area.
When I began researching New Deal projects in the Chicago area I found a website that tracked everything completed during that era: http://viewshare.org/views/kcarter/illinois-massachusetts/. From there I discovered the Maze Branch and that it was not on the Living New Deal map. Primary sources: "OAK PARK'S NEW LIBRARY BRANCH." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963): 18. Feb 02 1936. ProQuest. Web. 23 Apr. 2014 . "OAK PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY BRANCH HAS NEW HOME." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963): 1. Apr 21 1940. ProQuest. Web. 23 Apr. 2014 . "SPACE DWINDLES, OAK PARK PLANS MODERN LIBRARY." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963): 1. Jan 24 1937. ProQuest. Web. 23 Apr. 2014 . Secondary sources: "Maze Branch Library History." Oak Park Public Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. "Friends of the Library." Oak Park Public Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.
Project originally submitted by Lynsey Mukomel on May 11, 2014.
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