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The 10 most beautiful libraries in the United States

The United States is home to thousands of public, private, and academic libraries that offer a range of inspired aesthetics from neoclassical to Gothic, brutalist to organic. We have compiled a list of ten awe-inspiring libraries across America that embody and exude both architectural enlightenment and design innovation.

Panoramic interior view of the intermediate stage by beincke | © Lauren Manning / WikiCommons

Beincke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Beincke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is one of the largest libraries of its kind in the world and the primary source of literary archives, early manuscripts and rare books from Yale University. Very extensive collection of students and researchers from around the world. Completed in 1963, the building was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and constructed from Vermont marble and granite, as well as bronze and glass. The library's mighty, geometric exterior juxtaposes the old-world, neo-classical and neo-gothic architecture in a divided quadrangle, while at the same time serving to filter daylight and protect the millions of priceless volumes in the building. Items in the library's permanent collection include the Gutenburg Bible and Audubon's Birds of America.

Beincke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, 121 Wall Street, New Haven, CT, USA, +1 203 432 2977

Boston Public Library | © AlexiusHoratius / WikiCommons

The Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library was the first free public library in the United States. The original building, which opened in 1854, housed 16,000 volumes when it became apparent that there was insufficient space. In 1895 the architect Charles Follen McKim completed his "Palace for the People" in what is now Copley Square and in 1972 the famous modern architect Philip Johnson designed an extension. Today, the McKim Building is dedicated to research and the Johnson Building is the headquarters of the Boston Public Library's 24 other branches. The McKim Building, a great example of American Beaux Arts classicism, became a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Inside the building are murals, collections of rare books, prints, manuscripts, and maps, and gallery rooms that display valuable artifacts.

Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, USA +1 617 536 5400

Hostage library | © Ben Lunsford / WikiCommons

The hostage library

The Geisel Library is located on the University of California campus in San Diego and is a prime example of brutalist architecture. The university has a thoroughly modernist campus devoid of a single instance of revival architecture, so the library follows an iconic 20th century aesthetic. This striking building, designed by William L. Pereira & Associates, is made mostly of concrete and glass, and resembles a shape that is strange but organic at the same time. The imposing structure offers an exceptional panoramic view of the campus from 110 feet at the top of the tower, combining its captivating bulk with the ethereal component of light. Originally called the University Library Building, the library was named "Geisel" in 1995 in honor of Theodore "Dr." Seuss Geisel and his wife, Audrey, for their contributions to library content and literature.

Hostage Library, UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California, USA +1 858 534 3336

Interior of the George Peabody Library | © Matthew Petroff / WikiCommons George Peabody Library Building, Library, University

© Peabody Library

George Peabody Library

A division of Johns Hopkins University that opened the George Peabody Library in 1878 as part of the Peabody Institute - a free public library, lecture series, conservatory of music, and art collection for the citizens of Baltimore. The library was designed by local architect Edmund George Lind in collaboration with the institute's first director, Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison, designed. Known for its dramatic and impressive interiors, the building is characterized by high ceilings and five stories of intricate cast iron balconies. The library has a general collection of over 300,000 works on a variety of subjects, with the exception of music, and remained a part of the Peabody Institute until 1966 when the collection was transferred to the City of Baltimore. In 1982 the library became part of Johns Hopkins University.

George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, 17 East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD, USA +1 410 234 4943

For more information Tue - Thu: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Fri: 10 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Sat: 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. 17 East Mount Vernon Place, Mount Vernon, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202, USA +1 667 208 6715 Website visit

Services & Activities:

Free

The atmosphere:

Tranquility, architectural landmark, historical monument

The Gothic Study | © David Monniaux / WikiCommons

Hearst Castle

Located on the central California coast, Hearst Castle was the private residence of the eccentric newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Hearst Castle was designed by California architect Julia Morgan in 1919 and is now a National and California Historic Landmark. The castle was built to reflect the European styles of architecture that Hearst so admired and displays his vast collection of art, books, and antiques. The Gothic Study and Library is part of the "Gothic Suite," Hearst's private quarters, which he shared with his lover, actress Marion Davies. The 80-foot library holds approximately 4,000 books and exudes a traditional medieval aesthetic with hand-carved Spanish-style wooden arches, while the Study houses its collection of medieval texts, paintings, statues, and textiles.

Hearst Castle Gothic Study, 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, California, USA +1 800 444 4445

The Library of Congress Great Hall | © David Iliff / WikiCommons

Library of Congress

When the Library of Congress opened in 1897, it became the largest library in the world. The current building replaced the original library, commissioned by former President John Adams and which lasted until 1814 when British forces destroyed its contents in a fire. Thomas Jefferson then donated his personal library - stocked with some of America's most precious literary works in his possession - as a replacement that served as the basis for today's Library of Congress. The building has an elaborate Beaux Arts aesthetic and the interior is richly adorned with durable, high quality materials such as marble, bronze, gold and mahogany. Over 50 American artists contributed to the hand-carved sculptural and painted decoration that infused the building's grand, patriotic ideology.

Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, Southeast, Washington, DC, USA +1 202 707 5000

Los Angeles Public Library | © Los Angeles Public Library

Los Angeles Central Library

The Los Angeles Central Library is the largest public library in the western region of the United States. The architecture of the building was designed by Bertram Goodhue in 1926 and is supposed to suggest the enlightenment of learning - it contains stylistic elements that obviously come from ancient Egypt, one of the most enlightened civilizations in history. The facade has a sublime essence reminiscent of a ziggurat, with geometric and symbolic motifs throughout the building. Above the library is a distinctive, tiled pyramid with a gold hand holding a torch. The interior works in a variety of media by a range of artists, including the intricately painted ceiling of the main lobby by Renee Petropoulos, ethereal chandeliers by Therman Statom, and fairytale murals and stone carvings.

Los Angeles Central Library, 630 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, California +1 213 228 7500

Grand Study Hall, New York Public Library | © Alex Proimos / WikiCommons

New York Public Library

The iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building serves as the headquarters of the New York Public Library, a Beaux Arts building adjacent to Bryant Park on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. After architectural firm Carrère & Hastings won the library design competition and construction began in 1902 after two years of building preparation, New York quickly expanded into one of the most sophisticated urban areas in the world, greatness of the city, equipped with reading rooms, fast delivery systems and world class resources. The library eventually cost $ 9 million and opened to 30,000 to 50,000 visitors in 1911. The building houses an extensive collection of historical items, from medieval manuscripts and ancient Japanese scrolls to baseball cards and comic books.

New York Public Library, 5th Avenue on 42nd Street, New York, NY, USA +1 917 275 6975

Ancient Sultanabad in the Morgan Library | © Nazmiyal Collection / WikiCommons

The Morgan Library and Museum

Influential financier J. P. Morgan owned an amazing collection of art, from drawings and prints to ancient artifacts, rare books and manuscripts. In 1924, his son, J. P. Morgan Jr., donated his father's library to the public, officially establishing the Morgan Library & Museum. This extraordinary building was constructed by Charles Follen McKim on Madison Avenue and 36th Street in Manhattan between 1902 and 1906. The library occupies half of the city block and reflects different styles of architecture. Several expansions have been added since 1924 to house a growing collection - an annex was added in 1928, an adjacent brownstone was incorporated in 1988, and an outdoor garden was built in 1991. In 2006 the building underwent its most extensive renovation, led by Renzo Piano to improve visitor accessibility, the building's gallery and archive rooms, and so on.

The Morgan Library & amp; Museum, 225 Madison Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 685 0008

Seattle Central Library | © Bobak / Wikicommons

Seattle Public Library

In 1998, Seattle voted to improve all 22 Seattle Public Library branches. The location of the central library remained the same, but was completely redeveloped by the architectural visionaries Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. True to the principle "form follows function", the architects created a barrier-free design that represents and promotes the celebration of literature with a thought-provoking, innovative aesthetic. Working closely with the public, as well as the library board and staff, Koolhaas and Prince-Ramus redesigned the entire library building to create space and enhance the functionality of an innovative, contemporary design. The library now houses over a million items with an improved digital archive and over 400 computers.

Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 386 4636


Author: Julio McKinney

Julio Mckinney is a 46 year old journalist. Bacon Maven. Music fanatic. Travel nerd. Proud Reader. Communicator. Prone to apathetic seizures. Alcohol fan. Creator.