Friends of Blackstone Branch Library

This page is brought to you by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website and will become a page of information from Friends of Blackstone Library, associated with HPKCC. To contact or join Friends of Blackstone, contact Brenda Sawyer.Join the Conference and support our work. Contact HPKCC. Friends of Blackstone website: Ask to get their e-newsletter Views from the Stone by emailing
Library: (search by branch).

Blackstone Branch Library received city of Chicago landmark designation from City Council December 8, 2010.

HPKCC program home. Committees. About HPKCC. Blackstone Branch Library. Phone 312 747-1105. Location 4904 S. Lake Park Avenue.
312 747-0511.

You can join or donate to Friends of Blackstone Library via the Conference homepage, In the Programs list click Friends of Blackstone and look for the button.

June 2017- Friends of Blackstone Library and Coalition of Friends resleased an imporartant survey calling for restoration of Library hours. See below.


View of front of Blackstone Branch Library. Gary Ossewaarde
View of front of Blackstone Branch Library. Gary Ossewaarde

For history and architecture of Blackstone Branch Library visit our Blackstone page.
Chicago Public Library website, search
Friends website

Welcome to Friends of Blackstone Library, which became a committee of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference August 7, 2008. FOBL president Brenda Sawyer was elected to the HPKCC Board December 4, 2008.
Join Friends and you automatically become a member of HPKCC!

Friends of Blackstone Library meets first Wednesdays, 6 pm, downstairs at the Library. President Brenda (Mrs. Roderick) Sawyer
Help support the library:
contact Brenda to buy a tee-shirt. View tee-shirt, drawn by a local artist. Look for the next Spring Used Book Sale in 2018.

Friends of Blackstone's Despres Family Author Series: In the downstairs auditorium.

To schedule of other events and programs

Good news: all the libraries this fall went back to a full Monday. Staffing will be branch by branch as determined needed. Some funding cut 3 years ago will be restored.

New hours for Blackstone Library (40 hours per week only):

Brenda Sawyer of FOB and HPKCC announces per January 4:
Chicago Public Library has announced new hours for 2012.

All branches will be closed on Mondays. Blackstone Library hours are:

Sun & Mon: CLOSED

Tues & Thurs: 10am – 6pm

Wed: 12 – 8pm

Fri & Sat: 9am – 5pm

Staggered hours which began in 2010 will continue at all branches. Visit to view hours of operation of other branches. These hours will remain in force until further notice.

The regional libraries, Sulzer on the north side, and Woodson on the south side, along with Harold Washington Library downtown, will continue to be open 9am -9pm, Monday – Thursday; 9am – 5pm, Friday and Saturday; 1pm – 5pm, Sunday.

Blackstone Branch Library. Phone 312 747-1105. Location 4904 S. Lake Park Avenue.
Branch Manager Anne Keogh; children's library Tina Carter, 312 747-0511, .


Friends of Blackstone elected officers:
Brenda Sawyer (Mrs. Roderick), President
Vicky Long, Vice President

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference is pleased to act as fiscal agent for Friends of Blackstone. Those who join Friends of Blackstone automatically become members of the Conference and receive the quarterly Reporter. Be sure to give your form and check directly to Brenda.


Coalition of Library Friends releases survey results, calls upon Mayor Emanuel to restore Library hours. June, 2017

Dear Mayor Emanuel,

The Chicago Coalition of Library Friends is a group of volunteers who work in support of their branch of the Chicago Public Library. We want to share the results of a citywide survey we conducted (Feb.-May 2017) with those who use the Chicago Public Library.

Survey respondents reside in 42 of the 58 residential ZIP codes in Chicago, and 58% of survey respondents have lived in those ZIP codes for six years or more.

Other survey findings:

The median age of the respondents is 40 years of age, and over 95% have library cards.
About 80% of them use the library several times a year, staying in the library for at least an hour each time.
Over 50% of them use their library to get books and magazines. The remainder visit the library to use the internet on their library’s computers or the free Wi-Fi.
The most compelling finding was this: 80% would like to see the library opened longer.

Many children use the library each day, particularly because it’s a safe place to go after school. If libraries were open longer, the Chicago Public Library could quickly help expand the city’s Safe Haven program -- adding its 80 branch libraries to the list of Safe Haven institutions. In addition, expanded hours would mean the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Teacher in the Library and CyberNavigator programs would provide students additional educational guidance in a safe environment.

But increasing the number of hours benefits more than children. It would also offer job seekers more computer usage time, provide community meeting space to more groups, and libraries could offer additional activities and programs that would benefit all ages.

We want the Chicago Public Library to be a stronger institution and to fulfill its mission of Read, Learn, Discover. We believe that having libraries open longer will help achieve your mission. We urge the city to find ways to restore the hours that were cut in 2009, and keep the light on longer at our libraries. Can you help?

Kang Chiu for the
Chicago Coalition of Library Friends

Events and programs at the library, Friends of Blackstone events. By date

Thanks to all who came or volunteered for the Annual Spring Used Book Sale at Blackstone April 29, 2017-- a busy day!

Ongoing exhibit at Blackstone Library- "In These Days and Times," by Darrin Patton. Paintings. Beauty and Chaos.

Rahm's readers starts June 18!

Mon. 3:30 X-treme Science Mondays

Mon. (new name) Sweater Knit Along. (May 8, 15, 22, June 5, 12, 19) Reg. is required as is beginning knowledge[attern is at

Tues. Morning 10:30 am. Preschool Story/Crafts Time Children 3-5. This summer called Brainy Preschool Stories
4 pm Just Us Pawns Chess in the Library. (May 16, 23, 30)

Tues. 4 pm.- Just Us Pawns chess learning club.

Wed. Night Family Story Time at 6:30 pm. This summer called Fantastic Family Story Time

Music Teachers of Hyde Park- usually 3rd Weds Oct-May

Thursdays Toddler Story time at 10:30 am. This summer called Marvelous Toddler Story Time.
10- Get the Healthcare you Need.

Fridays 10:30 Super Babies Lapsit Story Time. wee ones. (May 5, 12, 19, 26)

Game Day 1st Saturdays. March 4, Saturday, 10 am-4 pm. Game Day at Blackstone Library, 4904 S. Lake Park, 312 747-0511. (May 6)

2nd? Saturdays at 1- Cook's Delight Cook Book Club. Not April.

August 19, Saturday, 1 pm. Blackstone Library Adult Book Discussion. The Invisible Bridge by Julia Orringer.

August 21, Monday, 6 pm. Bold Literary Speakers Toastmasters at Blackstone Library, 4904 S. Lake Park, 312 747-0511. Other Mondays>

August 26, Saturday, 1 pm. Blackstone Library Summer Reading Learning Challenge Party- for families and kids. 4904 S. Lake Park, 312 747-0511.

August 28, Monday, 6:30 pm. Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Club at Blackstone Library. Becky Chamber, The Long Way to an Angry Small Planet. 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. 312 747-0511.

One Book One Chicago- Discussions in various libraries and online, plus performance at Steppenwolf Th. in One Book One Chicago- year round now. 2016-17 Barbara Kingsolver: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Food Year. Theme- Eat, Think, Grow.

Library hours: BEING CHANGED. Monday & Wednesday 12:00 pm. - 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday & Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Friday & Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday Closed

Blackstone Branch
4904 S. Lake Park Avenue
Chicago, IL 60615
(312) 747-0511



At the library-



Recurring programs- check with the library, varies by month or


Music Teachers of Hyde Park 4th Monday concerts

One Book, One Chicago-

Blackstone Branch . 4904 S. Lake Park Avenue . Chicago, IL 60615 . (312) 747-0511
Library hours: Monday & Wednesday 12:00 pm. - 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday & Thursday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Friday & Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday Closed.

Friends of Blackstone Library was formed in 2003 by a diverse set of concerned neighbors to serve as an advisory council for Chicago's first branch library, promote use and improvement of the library, and provide volunteer and fundraising services for Blackstone. FBL gratefully acknowledges the efforts of previous volunteer support groups at the library and the many organizations, businesses, and individuals and families that support the FBL and the library. The Friends, which elected officers in January, 2005, has:

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference has long been interested in the success and growth of the library and has published information and promotion about the library and its support groups. In the middle decades of the 20th century, HPKCC monitored use, efficiency, and a serious book loss at the branch. In 2010 HPKCC became fiscal agent for FOB and is looking at ways to help.

Residents joined those who secured library physical restoration, ADA compliance and program commitments from Chicago Public Library. As a result, the branch is now very internet-connected, having a bank of public terminals, and has more programs and partners. There has been long-standing observation that the many kids coming to the library after school (many of them "latchkey") could be much better assisted to make full use of the library- a concern of the Conference from the middle 1990s when a previous set of "friends" came to us.

From the Friends' brochure:



Benefits of being a Friend




Buy a tee-shirt or a bag with a linoleum-cut design: support Friends and Blackstone library and programs

Here is Hyde Park-based artist Gregor Sosnowski's drawing for Friends' silk screened t-shirts, rolled out at the September, 2004 Centennial Celebration. Buy a tee-shirt: Contact Brenda Sawyer.

tee-shirt design for Friends of Blackstone Library by Gregor Sosnowski


Blackstone Library is more than just books

Letter of Brenda Sawyer, lead of Friends of Blackstone Library, to Ald. Will Burns and the Herald (October 19, 2011) in light of proposal to cut library staff and hours significantly to save 5 million. Good news, City Council is lining up to reject this. An article on the subject, and importance of libraries as neighborhood anchors and access point of job-seekers in the depressed economy, is in the October 25, 2011 Chicago Tribune.

As the mayor looks for ways to close the anticipated budget gap in the 2012 city budget, we urge you to protect the libraries of our city. Libraries are an essential part of the fabric of our neighborhoods. Far from being just a "warehouse" of books, they have expanded their services as society's needs have expanded. Our own Blackstone Branch is the first branch opened in the city, opening its doors in 1904. Today it not only serves up books for toddlers, teenagers or the vision-impaired but it provides Internet access, tutoring, book discussions, lectures, musical performances, research guidance and more.

This summer at Blackstone, 953 children read 22,318 books as part of the summer reading program keeping our children engaged in learning. Seven hundred and eight participants earned T-shirts acknowledging the number of books they read during the summer. Musicians from around the city came to fill the building with music from jazz to blues, classical guitar to banjo. Local musicians and musical organizations shared their expertise: Hyde Park Suzuki Players -- violinists; Lair Kim -- classical guitar; Phyllis Calderon -- classical piano and violin; Prof. Larry Zbikowski -- guitar, mandolin, banjo; Julian "J Kwest" DeShazier -- rap, and our own Maggie Brown -- singing and teaching the history of jazz, blues and spoken word.

Blackstone builds strong community through regular book discussions and lectures. Discussion of recent book releases for teenagers or adults provide community members time to reflect on a variety of themes an the City's One Book, One Chicago program, celebrating 10 years. brings citizens into conversations across the city, often in libraries. The Despres Family Memorial Lectures, sponsored by Friends of Blackstone Library, presents speakers on topics like school transformation, music retrospectives and environmental concerns. And we provide a venue for new writers to share their work.

Libraries have not become outdated or passe. To the contrary, they remain centers of culture and knowledge, places where we build our community to foster the type of society we want. These are difficult times. We must press towards a brighter future. The citizens of Chicago must be educated, energized and connected to sources that will help them envision a new city and a library in our community is a very important source.


The branch's current official description.

More is found in

Isabella Norton Blackstone dedicated the T. B. Blackstone Memorial Library, Chicago Public Library's first branch, on January 8, 1904, in memory of her husband, Timothy Beach Blackstone. Mr. Blackstone had been the president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad prior to his death in 1900. He was also a founding president of the Union Stock Yards.

The Blackstone Branch took two years to complete (1902-1904) at a cost of $250,000. Its architect was Solon S. Beman, designer of the Pullman Historic District. Beman modeled the building after the Erechthion, a temple on the Acropolis named for Erechtheus, a mythical king of Athens. The exterior is made of Concord granite, while parts of the interior are furnished with Italian veined marble. The building's rotunda has a Tiffany-style dome with a decorative pattern representing Egyptian papyrus. In the lunettes beneath the dome are four murals by artist Oliver Dennet Grover, who was associated with the World's Columbian Exposition. The paintings are entitled Literature, Science, Art, and Labor.

The Blackstone Branch has a sister library, the James Blackstone Memorial, located in Branford, Connecticut. Eight years earlier, T. B. Blackstone hired Mr. Beman and Mr. Grover to design a library in memory of his father. The James Blackstone Memorial is also fashioned after the Erechthion.

The Blackstone Branch's adult reading rooms hold mahogany furniture specifically designed for the space. Also found in these rooms are matching built-in shelving and custom-made bronze lamps. By the circulation desk in the center of the library are two-tiered book stacks trimmed with bronze. The mezzanine floor is made of glass blocks, which children years ago referred to as an "ice skating pond."

The current children's room was built as an annex in 1939 as part of a Works Project Administration (WPA) project at a cost of $68,400.

As Blackstone reaches its 100th year, it continues to serve the Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Oakland communities, which have grown to a population of 54,000.* The branch owns a collection of 52,600 items, including books, music cds, audio books, magazines, and newspapers. Internet access and several online reference databases are provided free of charge. Ongoing programs include an adult book discussion group, Internet tutoring, children's story times and arts & crafts projects. Additionally, each year the Branch participates in the Chicago Public Library's system-wide Summer Reading Program.

*Census 2ooo

Service Area Population: 50,084

Ethnic Grouping (1990 Census)
African American 53.3%
White 37.8%
Hispanic 2.4%
Asian American 6.1%
Native American 0.2%
Other 0.3%

Age distribution (1990 Census)
0-17 years 19.6%
18-34 years 33.8%
35-64 years 33.1%
65+ 13.5%

Average School Years Completed: 12.8

Schools Served: Elementary: 17
High School: 4
Shared with other branches: 1




Blackstone's centennial celebrations

February 2004.
This opening-of-the-centennial reception featured speakers, including CPL and branch staff and Stephen Treffman of the Hyde Park Historical Society, recognition of former 5th Ward alderman Leon Despres whose father was on the CPL board when the branch was built, music from a quartet from the Hyde Park Youth Symphony, and refreshments.

September 18, 2004
Event speakers included State Representative and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Public Library Region Manager Ken Jones, Hyde Park Historical Society Archivist Stephen Treffman. A Proclamation by President George W. Bush was read. We had music with the Hyde Park Youth Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble and the inimitable Jesse Scinto, cake, face painting, balloons, entertainment, a treasure hunt, and prizes. Hyde Park writer Jenny Schroedel, author of "The Blackbird's Nest: St. Kevin of Ireland" published by Saint Valdimir's Seminary Press conducted a make-your-own-picture book workshop for children. The Friends of the Blackstone Branch Library of the Chicago Public Library continues to conduct a membership drive including with commemorative t-shirts at $10
designed by local artist Gregor Sosnowski. Proceeds go to the branch library itself and FOB library development. For information, contact Dina Weinstein. (773) 643-6045.


Murals being conserved

Work underway this summer 2009 (see after 2007 piece). August 31 talk by the restorer at 7 pm. 4904 S. Lake Park

Conservator gives talk July 2007

Hyde Park Herald, July 18, 2007. By Eric Kasang

Blackstone Branch Library staff and supporters are revving up for restorations of the historic murals adorning the interior of its domed entrance. People walking into the Hyde Park library at 4904 S. lake Park Ave. and tilting their heads upward will notice four faded murals depicting angels and artisans gracing the ceiling's dome.

And on July 18 an 20 at 7 p.m., Peter M. Schoenmann, head conservator of paintings and murals for Parma Conservation, Ltd., wil give a free presentation on the restoration. Schoenmann has been tapped by the Blackstone to undertake the project.

Branch manager Ann Keough said this conservation is urgent. "The murals needed attention rather quickly," Keough said. "[Schoenmann] will go over some actual conservations that he's done and he'll provide a critical analysis of the murals."

The murals, with themes relating to labor, literature, the arts and agriculture, were painted by Oliver Dennet Grover, an artist who created many important murals in Chicago buildings and who was a major presence during the Word's Columbian Exhibition in 1893.

Keough said she tried to get funding for the mural conservation through the Chicago Public Library Foundation, but did not receive any money. However, she received funding for the murals from Hyde Park State Rep. Barbara Flynn Curie (D25). "We were very happy that she secured this money because the murals need restoration quickly," Keough said.

Currie said she was ferry happy to help Blackstone. "I know that they have been trying to secure funding for some time," Currie said. "And I was happy to make sure libraries in my district get the help they need."

The Blackstone murals have problems like discoloration from a previous coating on the paintings and a loose canvass, according to Schoenmann. He hoped that the presentation would rekindle interest in the project. He also explained that conservation is preserving the original murals and not repainting them. "Conservation has less to do being an artist than it has to do with being a chemist and technician," Schoenmann said. "What we focus on is getting to the truth, which means never adding anything, but in fact removing all unoriginal materials."

Schoenmann said these "unoriginal materials" included various old varnishes and grime. He said the goal is to return to the artisan's original creation. "We want to get to what the artist had intended for the viewer to see," Schoenmann said. "And that never involves interpreting or painting."

Started in 1902, the Blackstone Library was originally a gift to the City of Chicago from Isabel Norton Blackstone in memory of her husband and railroad magnate Timothy Beach Blackstone. The building was designed by noted architect Solon S. Beman and is a shining example of the Classical Revival style of architecture. For more information, please cal the Blackstone Branch Library at 312 747-0511.


Blackstone Murals receive rehab. July 29, 2009. By Sam Cholke

The murals high up in the main rotunda of Blackstone Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave., are getting their first care in 50 years -- and it's being done right this time. "They're pretty dirty," said librarian Lala Rodgers of the four main panels of the mural depicting literature, science, labor and art. the murals looked like they had never been cleaned, she said.

In 1959, the paintings were coated with "no. 38 dull," a furniture varnish, that trapped dirt in the crannies of the canvas paintings, said Peter Schoenmann from Parma Conservation. "The coating made it look worse that if it hadn't been touched," he said. "It took a lot of testing to come up with a formula that would remove no. 38 dull, but we were successful," Schoenmann said.

Schoenmann and conservationists from Bernacki & Associates, who are restoring the plaster trim and dome that was damaged from a leak in the library's roof, will finish their work in the first week of August. They will return to the library at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 to give a presentation on the process of restoring the Oliver Dennett Grover paintings.

"He was one of the greatest Chicago artists," Schoenmann said. "He was at the center of everything in art in Chicago at the time." Grover was a prominent turn-of-the-century painter in the Beaux Arts style, who displayed work during the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. He was closely aligned with respected architects of the fair, including Solon Beman, who would go on to design the Blackstone Library. "It's amazing how few brushstrokes [Grover] needed to render something that looked alive," Schoenmann said. "These are exquisite -- it's a shame they're up so high."

The historically and artistically important dome murals by Oliver Dennett Grover were restored, unveiled and the subject of a major lecture summer, 2009.

The programs were splendid . Thanks from FOBL and HPKCC to sponsors including State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie (who secured a $100,000 grant from the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity), Secretary of State Jesse White, State Librarian, Chicago Public Library, Mary Dempsey, Commissioner, Elizabeth Dowd, CPL preservationist, Branch Librarian Anne Keough and staff, Bernacke Company, Parma Restorers, and many others. Friends of Blackstone took the initiative in spurring this project.

Unveiling and dedication were held in a very nice, well attended ceremony and press conference August 27. August 31, the restorers and the CPL preservationist gave wonderful talks on their work to a packed auditorium.

Blackstone Library murals fixed. Hyde Park Herald, August 26, 2009

Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and Library Commissioner Mary A. Dempsey will unveil the fully restored Blackstone Branch Library mural at 1 p.m. Aug. 27. Currie was instrumental in securing the $100,000 necessary to restore the mural by Oliver Dennett Grover for the first time in over 50 years.

"It's amazing how few brushstrokes [Grover] needed to render something that looked alive," said Peter Schoenmann from Parma Conservation, which restored the mural's four painted panels in the library's rotunda. "These are exquisite-- it's a shame they're so high up."

Grover, who painted the 14-foot by 9-foot panels, was a prominent local artist and muralist for Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The murals depict the themes of literature, science, labor and at, each with a central statuesque winged female surrounded by other figures and allegorical symbols. The murals are framed by elaborate decorative plasterwork that continues up into the dome and is accented in gold leaf. Grover reportedly received $10,000 in 1902 to produce the murals, which were recently appraised at more than 100 times that amount.

The library is named for a Chicago philanthropist, Timothy Beach Blackstone, former president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad. His widow, Mrs. Isabel Farnsworth Norton Blackstone, commissioned celebrated Chicago architect Solon S. Beman to design the branch building as a gift to the Chicago Public Library and citizens of Chicago in memory of her husband. Beman's design for the building was inspired by the Erectheion, a temple on the Athenian Acropolis.


Process advances on Landmarking the Blackstone branch

According to the Herald of May 12, 201o, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks favorably passed the status May 6, 2010. So it's on to the City Council Landmarks Committee and then full City Council.


Learn what other service organizations and centers are doing in the community in our Collaborers in the Neighborhood, Community Resources, and Recreation Guide pages.