About HWLC

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

Plan Your Visit to HWLC has information about what to see and do while you're here.


  • 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.