Exhibit: Stories We Tell: The History of the Chicago Bee Branch

The Stories We Tell: The History of the Chicago Bee Branch exhibit is on display at the Chicago Bee Branch from March 1 - August 31. Stories We Tell is an exhibit series celebrating 150 years of Chicago Public Library at branches around the system. This exhibit was curated by Marvin Bowen, branch manager of the Chicago Bee Branch.

Building History

Chicago Bee Branch is located at 3647 S. State Street in the formerly abandoned Anthony Overton Building. The Overton Building, an Art-Deco style structure, once served as headquarters to the Chicago Bee newspaper. It also housed apartment units on the upper levels of the building and office space for the Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Company, which was a nationally recognized cosmetics company in the 1930s. 

Anthony Overton was an ambitious entrepreneur, founding the Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Company, among other businesses. In 1926, Mr. Overton began publishing the Chicago Bee, a weekly newspaper serving Chicago’s African American community. Mr. Overton commissioned Z. Erol Smith, local architect, to design and build a three-story brick structure in which to publish the newspaper. The three-floor building featured a richly ornamented facade executed entirely of terra cotta. The Chicago Bee ceased publication in 1947.

Branch History

The Chicago Bee Branch joined the Chicago Public Library system in 1996. Chicago Bee was the combination of Harold Ickes, Stateway Gardens and Robert Taylor branch libraries of the Chicago Housing Authority, formerly the public housing complex. Chicago Bee Branch has historically offered several library programs for the Bronzeville and surrounding communities, including the De LaSalle Tolton Center, a GED program that provided students with a platform to continue their formal education.

Do you have any memories of the libraries in Bronzeville? Let us know on social media by tagging #CPL150.

About CPL 150 

Chicago Public Library is 150 years young! Since first opening our doors in 1873, we've served all Chicagoans with free and open places to gather, learn, connect, read and be transformed. Join us in celebrating 150 years of serving our communities. Learn more by visiting chipublib.org/150.