Chicago Public Library Archives. Chicago Cultural Center Contractor Bids
Scope and Contents
This collection comprises the specifications Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge created for contractors to bid on for the construction of the building. The specifications show exact standards contractors were held to when building the new central library, as well as the materials to be used. Many bids have original checks for deposits attached to them and some have additional information about the bidding company included, such as trade catalogs, photographs of proposed machinery, and additional blue prints.
- 1892 - 1898
- Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
In February 1892, the Board of Directors of the Chicago Public Library met to appoint an architect to design the new central library. Thirteen architects responded to the invitation to design the new building and of these, three were selected to further explain their buildings to the Board: William Le Baron Jenney of Jenney and Mundie; Solon S. Beman; and Charles A. Coolidge of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge. The Board unanimously selected the design by Boston firm, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge as being “in complete accord with the interior plans” while it “happily indicates the character and purposes of the building.” [Board of Directors, Proceedings, February 13, 1892.] After their appointment, the company opened an office in Chicago, and in 1893 was commissioned to build the Art Institute of Chicago.
The new Main Library building stood on Dearborn Park, bordered by Michigan Avenue to the east, Washington Street on the south, Garland Court on the west, and Randolph Street on the north. At 47,000 square feet, the total cost of the new Library was slightly less than $2 million, and had a total capacity for 2 million books. However, the building quickly reached its capacity and though the building was renovated and modified several times, it underwent a major renovation by architects Holabird and Roche, reopening in 1977 as the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. As the functions of the Library automated, the old building was found to be unsuitable for a library that was increasingly using electronic equipment on a day-to-day basis. The Chicago Public Library finally left this grand home in October 1991 as the new Harold Washington Library Center opened on State Street. Also in 1991, the building received Landmark Status and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and was renamed the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicago Cultural Center is now home to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and one of the city’s Visitor Information Centers.
12 Linear Feet (in 25 boxes)
Language of Materials
This collection comprises the specifications Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge created for contractors to bid on for the construction of the Main Library for the Chicago Public Library, now known as the Chicago Cultural Center. The specifications show the exact standards contractors were held to when building the new central library, as well as the materials to be used. Many bids have original checks for deposits attached to them and some have additional information about the bidding company included, such as trade catalogs, photographs of proposed machinery, and additional blue prints.
The files are arranged alphabetically according to the main item in each specification, which is in bold. Researchers should be aware, however that in many cases, several items were combined into the one specification, for example, Box 5 has specifications for counters, railings and bookcases, bronze screens, bronze lamp standards with gas piping, lamp globes with electric lamps for the reading, reference, delivery and registry rooms, all in the one specification. In these cases, the first, or main, item listed, “counters,” is alphabetized.
Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These files were retained by Chicago Public Library staff.
- Architecture -- Competitions -- Illinois -- Chicago Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Chicago Cultural Center
- Chicago Public Library
- Chicago Public Library. Central Library
- Chicago Public Library. Cultural Center
- Construction industry -- Equipment and supplies -- Catalogs -- History -- Sources Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Chicago Public Library (Organization)
- Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge (Organization)
- Guide to the Chicago Public Library Archives. Chicago Cultural Center Contractor Bids
- Morag Walsh, 2005. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2022.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States