Guided Tour of the Newberry

Travel back to 1893, the year the Newberry building opened to the public. On this guided tour, you’ll learn about the Newberry’s iconic architecture and extensive history.

A bust of Filipino hero Jose Rizal appears in a study area in the Newberry Library.

The Newberry's collection and programming have been free and open to all since 1887.

In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition took place in Chicago, Grover Cleveland started his second non-consecutive term as president, and the Newberry building opened to the public. On this guided tour, you’ll learn about the history behind the founding of the Newberry. You’ll also discover all the ways you can engage with the library today.

Founded in 1887, the Newberry had three temporary locations before moving into its permanent home across from Washington Square Park in 1893.

The library was designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb, with input from Newberry head librarian William Frederick Poole. Cobb envisioned a grand edifice on par with the civic landmarks of Europe; Poole favored a more modest design that would facilitate user access to books and other resources. In the end, they compromised. The Newberry is a blend of their competing visions.

Aerial photograph of the Newberry, 2022

Architectural detail on the Newberry's facade

A quiet study space on the Newberry's third floor

Over the years, the Newberry has grown and evolved, notably with the addition of a climate-controlled stacks building in the early 1980s and a renovation that updated spaces and restored original architectural details on the library’s first floor in 2018.

You’ll get a healthy dose of history on this tour. But you’ll also get to see the Newberry in action in the present. Tens of thousands of people visit the Newberry every year, and there are many ways that we make the library’s collections, programs, and resources accessible and relevant to them.

Cost and Registration

This tour is free, and no advance registration is required. We'll meet in the lobby of the Newberry and begin the tour from there.

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