For nearly two weeks in July I travelled around the U.S. Midwest to visit cities with great examples of surviving historic street pavement and with archival repositories. One of the exciting aspects of this research has been the diversity of places where one finds historical archival collections -- libraries, historical societies, museums, and city halls.
In St. Louis I visited the grandiose St. Louis Central Library, a stunning beaux-arts style building designed by Cass Gilbert, and the Missouri History Center, which is housed in a former early 20th-century synagogue and which has the most amazing acoustics inside what is now the reading room. Careful what you say, since even a low whisper is audible anywhere in the room!
In Minneapolis I visited the city's collection of municipal records stored in the tower of City Hall. It felt like a scene from the films Name of the Rose or Lord of the Rings, with boxes, stacks and rolls of thousands of documents on open shelves and tables in the dusty three-story space.
This was in stark contrast to the pristine Minnesota History Center's Research Library housed in an impressive and grandiose modern building down the road in St. Paul (below). The even more boldly modernistic Minneapolis Central Library rounded out the repositories I visited there.
In Chicago, the Harold Washington Public Library (pictured at the top of this post) is one of the most exuberant examples of Post-Modern architecture in America and it houses the best collection of local documents on Chicago.
My trip concluded in Columbus, Ohio, with visits to the recently reopened Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Branch downtown,
the Ohio History Connection's research library (located out in the suburbs in an imposing Brutalist building from 1970, pictured below) and the German Village Historical Society's archive, which I was able to access through the generosity of one of the employees there.