Celebrate 100 Years of Central Library

The entire community is invited to commemorate the illustrious 100-year history of Central Library, the main hub of The Indianapolis Public Library, with special programs and activities continuing through mid-October.

Situated on land donated by beloved Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, the original limestone building at 40 E. St. Clair Street was designed by Paul Cret, who devised many of the Library’s plans while fighting in the trenches for his native France in World War I. Dedicated on October 7, 1917, Central Library arose from the need to expand beyond the crowded and inadequate conditions at a building occupied at Ohio and Meridian Streets since 1893.


The Cret Building, whose architectural features are highlighted by its classic Greek Doric exterior and an interior ceiling mural painted in oil on small canvases, received acclaim from such national publications as Architectural Forum, which in 1918 proclaimed Central Library as “the most beautiful secular building in the United States, if not the most beautiful secular building produced in modern times.”

Central Library expanded in 2007 with a six-story glass and steel-framed addition designed by Evans Woollen that gently embraces the Cret Building and provides a complementary bridge between the traditional and modern library. In 2016, Elle Decor magazine included Central Library in its list of the “50 Best Libraries in America.”

Free architectural tours of Central Library will be offered on September 16 and 30 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Presentations on Central Library’s history and architecture will be held on September 17 and 24 at 2 p.m.

Throughout September and October, children and families can roll their coins down the “donation maze” to support the refurbishing of the 100-year-old Penny Gates at the south entrance of the Cret Building that were established from the donation of pennies by children “in loving remembrance of their friend James Whitcomb Riley.” Other programs include a 1917 storytime and scavenger hunt for children, a presentation on Central Library’s urban legendary “hauntings,” and an exploration of the life of James Whitcomb Riley.

The centennial celebration culminates with a commemorate program on October 7 during which a 100-year time capsule will be unveiled, along with performances by a quintet from the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Children’s Choir, a proclamation by the Mayor’s office, historic period characters, family programs, birthday cake and more. Free parking in Central Library’s garage will be available throughout the day.

For more information on Central Library’s centennial and related activities, call 317-275-4099, go to indypl.org, or visit The Indianapolis Public Library on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Indy's Child
Indy's Child
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