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Offices (Norfolk Public Library)

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Norfolk Public Library
1903–1904, Hale and Morse. 1978, renovation. 345 W. Freemason St. Lobby open to the public

That this handsome brick and limestone building was once Norfolk's main library is not difficult to guess, given its encircling frieze containing the names of famous authors. The focal point of the Beaux-Arts classical design is the unpedimented entrance portico supported by paired, two-story Ionic columns. A bust of the goddess Athena Parthenos watches over the main doors. Along the sides of the building, elaborately framed windows alternate with pilasters.

The public library system in Norfolk began in 1870 with the founding of the Norfolk Library Association. A $50,000 donation from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1901 spurred the construction of this building, which served the citizens of Norfolk from 1904 until the opening of the Kirn Library downtown in the early 1960s. Apparently it is the only Virginia work by Hale and Morse, an architecture firm active in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions. The building has been converted to offices, but the lobby, with its grand staircase, coffered ceiling, and additional classical busts, remains.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Offices (Norfolk Public Library)", [Norfolk, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 425-425.

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