An Unexpected View of Blegen Library

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Two years ago when CCM Librarian Mark Palkovic worked with a UC architecture seminar on historic preservation on projects that created designs for an academic music library, there was an unexpected bonus for the University Archives.  The students’ projects centered on using the abandoned University YMCA building at the south end of campus to imagine its adaptive reuse as a library and performance space.

Located along Calhoun Street just before the intersection with Clifton Avenue, the YMCA structure was built in 1929 at a cost of $175,000.  For decades it served as the place for lectures, recreation, celebrations, various classes, and, a regular Madrigal dinner.  However, in the past twenty years as more recreation and meeting facilities were constructed on campus, the building was closed.

During the research phase, Palkovic discovered a number of photographs left behind in the YMCA, which he conveyed to the University Archives.  The photos weren’t examined in great detail until a DAAP graduate student began a new research project on the building.  One of the images he consulted is the one shown here – and in the background, one can see the skeletal structure of Blegen Library rising from the ground.

Completed and opened in 1930 as UC’s Main Library (and the second library structure erected on campus, after Van Wormer), the building was rededicated as Carl Blegen Library in 1983.  It is one of the hidden Art Deco treasures of Cincinnati, with beautiful architectural elements dedicated to the history of the book and the heritage of learning.  And now, in this new (to us) view of Blegen, we can add to our store of images of a library building that currently houses the Archives & Rare Books Library, the John Miller Burnam Classics Library, the Albino Gorno Memorial Music Library, and the Department of Classics.

For a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Blegen Library, click on (This presentation is optimized for use with Microsoft Internet Explorer.  It may not display properly in other browers.)

– Kevin Grace