About HWLC

Located in the South Loop, Harold Washington Library Center is CPL's main library.

Planning a visit? We recommend the Top 10 Things to Do at Harold Washington Library Center. While you're here, be sure to check out the glass-roofed Winter Garden, a must-see for Chicagoans and visitors alike.

Bringing your class to the library? Request a tour of HWLC.


  • In 1987, Mayor Harold Washington ordered a design/build competition for a new central library in the South Loop. The City Council authorized the competition and the $144 million bond issue to finance the project on July 29, 1987.
  • Based on both design and cost criteria, an 11-member citizen jury selected the design by Thomas Beeby from Hammond, Beeby & Babka, Inc. as the winner on June 20, 1988.
  • Groundbreaking took place October 13, 1988, using imported soil because the location at State and Van Buren streets was an asphalt-covered parking lot. Harold Washington Library Center Construction Photographs, 1988-1991 documents the construction.
  • Dedicated October 4, 1991, HWLC opened October 7, 1991.
  • Named for Harold Washington (1922-1987), the city's first African American mayor