In 1904, Mrs. Isabella N. Blackstone presented the Chicago Public Library with funding to construct its first library in memory of her late husband, Timothy Beach Blackstone. Mr. Blackstone served as president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad from 1864 until 1899, and was one of Chicago’s leading philanthropists. The library was modeled after the famous Erechtheum of the Acropolis. This library, located in the Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood at 4904 S. Lake Park Avenue, is still an active and vital part of the Chicago Public Library.
In 1916, Chief Librarian Henry E. Legler presented his library plan for the whole city, which called for an extensive network of neighborhood library locations throughout Chicago. Its goal was to bring “library service within the walking distance of home for every person in Chicago who can read or wants to use books.” He also believed that several regional libraries with more comprehensive collections than the neighborhood library locations would provide patrons with greater library resources within a reasonable distance. The first regional library, the Henry E. Legler Regional Library, was established in 1920.
Carl B. Roden was appointed chief librarian in 1918. In the 32 years that Roden served as librarian (1918-1950), the library system increased 50 percent; the staff more than doubled; the book stock increased threefold; circulation doubled and total expenditures rose more than 400 percent.