Cass Gilbert Society


St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO

Photo ca. 1987, Library of Congress, Jack E. Boucher

St. Louis Public Library

1301 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri
Design & Construction:
1907-1912[1907-1912 Irish-1999; 1907-1912 Christen-2001]
Cass Gilbert 

In the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the city of St. Louis expanded its cultural footprint in several areas. Besides the Art Museum, the other notable addition was the St. Louis Public Library. Andrew Carnegie had provided $500,000 in 1901 to build a new central library and six branches. A competition in 1907 invited seven architectural firms to participate. Then five were chosen as finalists and asked to make revisions. Gilbert was chosen as the winner, largely on the basis of his design of the book delivery room. [Irish-1999, p. 100]

The building is set back from Olive Street on a raised terrace. The symmetrically organized facades of Maine granite are marked by arcades. The main entrance in the form of a projecting pavilion is approached by broad granite steps. On the interior, the two-story book delivery room occupies the center of the building. Reading rooms, the reference room, and rooms for specialized collections are organized around the delivery room. The designs of the rooms for the art collection and the periodical collection, which flank the entrance vestibule, are based on Italian Renaissance prototypes. Artist Elmer E. Garnsey, a long-time collaborator with Gilbert, was responsible for much of the interior decoration. When built, a seven-story steel and glass stacks area was located on the north side of the building.

See Also

  • Library of Congress. "Cass Gilbert Papers, 1841-1961." The LOC has over 9,000 items available in the Manuscript Reading Room. Online finding aid: