“The Conrad Sulzer Regional Library” by S.M. O’Connor

The Conrad Sulzer Regional Library at 4455 North Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square on the Far North Side of Chicago is one of the Chicago Public Library’s two full-service regional libraries (the other being the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library on the South Side).  The Lincoln Square community area encompasses five neighborhoods: Bowmanville, Budlong Woods, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and Ravenswood Gardens.  The library was designed by the architectural firm Hammond Beeby and Babka.  Under the name Hammond, Beeby, Rupert, Ainge Architects, the architectural firm later designed the Harold Washington Library Center, completed in 1991, after winning a design competition.  The design of the Sulzer Regional Library building was inspired by German neo-classical architecture, as a tribute to the neighborhood’s German-American cultural heritage.  The building has furniture in a German mythological theme custom-made by Hammond, Beeby and Babka.

The Conrad Sulzer Regional Library opened on September 14, 1985.   Originally, it was called the Frederick H. Hild Regional Library.  In the early 1990s, just as the Old Town School of Folk Music was coming to grips with a need to expand, the City of Chicago approached the school and other cultural institutions to see if they would be interested in purchasing the first Hild Regional Library building.  This was a 43,000-square-foot Art Deco-style building on North Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square that had stood vacant for twelve years.  Pierre Blouke designed the first iteration of the Frederick H. Hild Regional Library (1931) at 4544 North Lincoln Avenue.  It was named after the second Librarian of the Chicago Public Library, Frederick H. Hild (1858-1914), who served from 1887 to 1909.  The Old Town School of Folk Music opened in 1957, and, since 1968, had occupied a 13,000-square-foot facility 909 West Armitage Avenue.  The Old Town School of Folk Music raised $10,000,000 for a capital campaign project, maintained music classes at its old facility on West Armitage, and dedicated the old library building as a new school building on September 18, 1998, with a concert by Joni Mitchell and Peter Yarrow.

The second iteration of the Frederick H. Hild Regional Library was re-named in honor of Conrad Sulzer (1807-1873), a Swiss immigrant who was a pioneer settler of Ravenswood, then outside the city limits. After his arrival in Chicago in 1836, he converted a wilderness north of town into a livestock farm and a horticulture garden. Sulzer served as collector of Ridgeville Township and assessor of Lake View Township.  He established a local heritage of public service and commitment to the community.  His descendants honor his legacy through the Sulzer Family Foundation.

The Sulzer Regional Library houses artwork entitled Petrouchka, by Nicholas Africano; an oil- on-canvas painting, Untitled, by Sandra Jorgensen and a mural entitled The Aeneid, by Irene Siegel. The art was funded through the Percent for Art Ordinance administered by the City of Chicago’s Public Art Program. The Featured Collection at Sulzer Regional Library is the Northside Neighborhood History Collection. This includes the Ravenswood-Lake View Community Collection. The Auditorium can hold a maximum of 100 people, but has no fixed seating.  The Community Meeting Room has a maximum capacity of 35 people, and cannot be subdivided.

In 2013, the Chicago Public Library (C.P.L.) announced that the Harold Washington Library Center (H.W.L.C.), Conrad Sulzer Regional Library (C.S.R.L.), both designed by Thomas Beeby, would undergo $11,000,000 in renovations, funded through T.I.F. (tax-increment financing), as called for in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2014 budget.   While the H.W.L.C. would undergo $6,000,000 in renovations and C.S.R.L. would undergo $5,000,000 in renovations.  The H.W.L.C.’s leaky roof would be repaired or replaced.  New back-up power generators would be installed, as would lighting, and a new H.V.A.C. (heating, venting, and air-conditioning) system.  Chicago Library Commissioner Brian Bannon told ABC-7 (WLS) and Chicago Sun-Times City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman that these renovations would be undertaken to ensure the H.W.L.C. lasts for 100 years (as Beeby’s design was intended to accomplish).  It then served approximately 5,000 people a day.  The C.S.R.L. would also receive a new roof and H.V.A.C. system, as well as new façade, windows, and skylights.  Bannon described Sulzer Library, which served approximately 1,500 people a day, as “smaller, but still huge.”

The Sulzer Regional Library is open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays; from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; and from 9:00.a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The phone number of the Sulzer Regional Library is (312) 744-7616.  The e-mail address is sulzerregional@chipublib.org.


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