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Chicago Public Library Archives

On January 1, 1873 the Chicago Public Library opened its doors in a water tank that had survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. These photographs trace our history from that small structure to the development of neighborhood libraries across the city.

Explore CPL through those years, from that circular water tank, to delivery stations in the late 19th century, to bookmobiles in the mid-20th century to Hild Regional Library in the 1970s.

The Chicago Public Library Archives are housed in the Special Collections and Preservation Division at Harold Washington Library Center.