When it comes to bookish places you might not expect to find in Houston, the Lanier Theological Library might be at the top of that list. You might also be surprised that Houston is home to the Julia Ideson Library, an elegant, architecturally gorgeous public library decked with chandeliers, colorful murals, and a domed ceiling.
Named after its first head librarian, Julia Bedford Ideson, the Julia Ideson Library dates back to 1926 when it first opened to the public. Designed by revered architect, Ralph Adams Cram, the library is simply a work of art.
Designed in the Spanish Renaissance style, the historical Houston library features Ionic columns, classical architectural detailing, suspended chandeliers, vibrant murals, and an ornamental domed ceiling.
In the 2000s, the library underwent renovations to meet modern standards while upholding its historical charm. These renovations included the addition of restored public spaces – including the new Exhibit Hall and marvelous new Reading Room – cutting-edge technology, accessibility features, and climate-control systems.
As for its extensive literary selection, visitors can find over 4.5 million historical photographs, 150,000 architectural drawings, 7,000 volumes of rare children’s books, 12,000 volumes of rare books, a selection of rare books including a 1520 edition of The Odyssey, and over 300 rare maps of Texas dating back to 1561.
Presently, the Julia Ideson Library is the home to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library staff, and the Houston Public Library Foundation.
The library hosts numerous events, lectures, and exhibitions throughout the year, fostering a sense of community and intellectual curiosity. It also houses the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, a repository of historical documents, photographs, and records that preserve the city’s history and heritage.