The Historic Waukegan Carnegie Library

The Waukegan Carnegie Library is located at 1 North Sheridan Road, Waukegan, Illinois, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Carnegie library buildings were built to last forever. Waukegan’s Carnegie Library is a jewel box, a fine example of Classical Revival style. It exemplifies the extremely good craftsmanship used on Carnegie buildings throughout the country. The Carnegie library buildings of the U.S. are a significant and irreplaceable collection of treasures as they were over 100 years ago!
— Edward Torrez, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Architect, President, Principal, Bauer Latoza Studio, Chicago; Waukegan native.

Built in 1903, it became a Designated Landmark for the City of Waukegan in 2007. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Its historical significance came out of the efforts of a community that needed public library services. Once built, the library provided free library service for the community for over half a century before the current Waukegan Public Library was constructed, providing more space for books and patrons.

Designed by the architectural firm of Patton & Miller, the Waukegan Carnegie Library meets established criteria for listing under Criteria A, for association with events that have made significant contributions to the broad patterns of history and Criteria C, for a property that embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, and method of construction that rewrite an essay and possesses high artistic values. The Carnegie Library's period of significance ended in 1966, when the building’s use as a library ceased, yet meeting the 50-year requirement.

The Library That “Raised” Ray Bradbury

Another immensely important significance of the building is its connection to acclaimed author Ray Bradbury, a Waukegan native son. Not only was this library one of his “favorite haunts” as a youth, but the Waukegan Carnegie Library is also prominently featured in a number of his novels, most notably Something Wicked This Way Comes and in many of his short stories. Bradbury refers to it as "his library." In a Chicago Tribune article Bradbury said, "'Waukegan pervades all of my work, and the library especially. I'm a library-educated person. I got my education in that library until I was 13.”

In early 2013, Hector Escobar, life-long Waukegan resident and Loyola University graduate student, submitted the nomination for the Carnegie Library to the National Register of Historic Places as a class project. Assisted by Ty Rohrer, Museum Supervisor at the Waukegan History Museum, Mr. Escobar provided the needed research. In 2014, Waukegan’s Carnegie Library was added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

The Future of the Building

For almost 50 years, Waukegan’s Carnegie Library has stood empty, impervious to efforts to dismantle it, as a sentinel on the bluff, defiant in face of the elements, waiting for the community who loved it as a library to honor it as the library that enriched the city. That moment has arrived! We will resurrect this vital part of Waukegan’s legacy for all to enjoy once more.
— Edward Torrez AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Architect, President, Principal, Bauer Latoza Studio, Chicago; Waukegan native.

Today the RBWCL architects and planners are working together to design the building in an adaptive reuse as the home of the Bradbury Playhouse of the Mind. 

Preliminary Designs

The RBWCL Board and Advisors have reviewed several preliminary building designs. The ultimate design will closely align with the program. Unique, historical features of the building, such as the Children’s Room with its fireplace, will support the program’s interpretation of how Ray Bradbury’s imagination grew in the historic Carnegie library. With contemporary and science fiction elements based on Bradbury’s universal themes, the program will provide visitors an unforgettable experience within the renovated Carnegie Library.

First floor: Design courtesy of Bauer Latoza Studio

First floor: Design courtesy of Bauer Latoza Studio

Mezzanine: Design courtesy of Bauer Latoza Studio

Mezzanine: Design courtesy of Bauer Latoza Studio

Basement: Design courtesy of Bauer Latoza Studio

Basement: Design courtesy of Bauer Latoza Studio

Scheme c – interior elevator with new stairs

  • provides access to all levels without additional equipment
  • all primary vertical circulation centralized at lobby areas
  • only moderate exterior construction and sitework
  • occupies moderate square footage for vertical circulation, but less than other schemes
  • requires construction of addition

Other traits

  • accessible entry maintained at central area near main entry location
  • elevator centralized at main lobby
  • support spaces:  700 s.f.
  • storage/utility: 1990 s.f.
  • circulation: 1960 s.f.
  • new circulation: 600 s.f.
  • total sf: 11,690