Mission & History
Lake Forest Library: inspiring lifelong learning, promoting the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and building community.
History of the Library
Lake Forest Library is located in Lake Forest, Illinois, a community located thirty miles north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. Lake Forest was founded in 1861 and developed under the leadership of Lake Forest College (then Lind University) and the Presbyterian Church.
The Library was chartered on July 4, 1898 by Mayor Edward F. Gorton and opened on the second floor of the new city hall on June 24, 1899. The Library moved to its current location in 1931.
The present Library building, designed by architect Edwin H. Clark (who also designed Brookfield Zoo and the Winnetka Village Hall), was dedicated on June 7, 1931. It was built as a Library and given as a gift to the City of Lake Forest by Mrs. Charles H. Schweppe and Mrs. Stanley Keith in memory of Mrs. Keith's first husband, Kersey Coates Reed. The building and siting of the Library was overseen by the Library President, Alfred E. Hamill, a wealthy book collector, poet, investment banker and friend of David Adler, who had designed Hamill’s Centaurs estate.
Designed in the Art Deco style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, the Library is located in a National Register Historic District. The building follows a classic symmetrical plan around a central domed rotunda, similar to the 1929 Shedd Aquarium. The building, its landscape, and its art are an excellent example of the Chicago Renaissance, the period from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition to the start of World War II.
The rotunda houses the Kersey Coates Reed memorial stone relief of "The Archer" by Oskar J. W. Hansen (1892–1971) and the extraordinary Nicolai Remisoff (1887–1975) murals. The archer's face is a likeness of Mr. Reed. The inscription reads: "In memory of Kersey Coates Reed, eighteen hundred and eighty—nineteen hundred and twenty-nine—who was much loved in Lake Forest—where he lived—and who cared greatly for good books—this building has been erected." Twelve murals painted by Remisoff line the walls of the rotunda depicting the great authors of antiquity.
The high-ceilinged, wood-paneled rooms on the building’s main level contribute to its warm and inviting atmosphere. The fireplace in the Friends’ Reading Room is lit from November to April.
In 1978, three new wings were officially dedicated. Funds for the $1.1 million addition were underwritten by gifts from the community and a substantial donation from the Reed family.
In 1996, renovations and refurbishing were completed in the Adult Reference Room and the Friends Reading Room. The Deer Path Art League of Lake Forest commissioned a Michael Croydon sculpture entitled Ex Libris, which was installed on the Library front lawn. The Friends of Lake Forest Library funded the restoration of the original 1931 Nicolai Remisoff murals located in the Library rotunda.
In the fall of 2000, the Children’s Library courtyard was covered, enclosed, and renamed the Louise Wells Kasian Children's Activity Center. Furnishings were funded by Friends of Lake Forest Library. The room, currently known as the Kasian Room, hosts many programs for both children and adults.
In 2013, the Library undertook a $200,000 window restoration project with funds from private donors and Friends of Lake Forest Library.
In 2014, the Library, with funds from private donors and Friends of Lake Forest Library, added a media lab that is popular with Lake Forest residents.
For a detailed timeline of the Library's history, visit the Lake Forest Library Wikipedia page.