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Clements Library (William L. Clements Library of Americana)

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William L. Clements Library of Americana
1922–1923, Albert Kahn and Ernest Wilby. 909 S. University Ave.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

The Clements Library is one of the premier buildings on the campus and was Kahn's own favorite among all the buildings he did. It houses the collection of American manuscripts that William Lawrence Clements (1861–1934), an alumnus and regent of the University of Michigan, bequeathed to the university in 1922. Kahn and associate Wilby of Detroit designed the library to Clements's wishes and employed a late Italian Renaissance variety of Beaux-Arts classicism. It is a handsome building that may have been inspired by Vignola's casino for the gardens of the Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola, which Kahn may have photographed on one of his many visits abroad. It may have been more directly influenced by McKim, Mead and White's Butler Art Institute of 1917 in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Indiana limestone library is approached by a broad-stepped terrace that ascends to a triple arcade supported on two slender Corinthian columns. This forms a screen to a loggia that was originally tiled, with vaulted ceilings in gold and blue mosaic. Three bronze doors with grilles provide access to the main room. The interior employs rich materials and colors appropriate to the library's exclusivity.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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