clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Inside Washington, D.C.'s Most Beautiful Libraries

From the Shaw Library to Riggs Library

The Library of Congress might be the most beautiful library in Washington, D.C., but it's not the only stunner to take notice of. From the Shaw Library to Georgetown University's Riggs Library, there are a myriad of award-winning, historic structures in the nation's capital that deserve a book-lover's attention. With help from readers who reached out, Curbed has put together a list of five libraries that offer a great setting to crack open a book in. If there were any left off, be sure to leave a comment or email dc@curbed.com.

Folger Shakespeare Library

201 E Capitol Street SE

In Capitol Hill, this independent research library features the world's largest collection of William Shakespeare's printed works. The library first opened in 1932 and has since hosted performances and events celebrating the Bard's poetry and plays. The main building which the library is located in was designed by French-born architect Paul Philippe Cret, who is also responsible for designing the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and the Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington, D.C. While the building's facade is made of white marble with bas-reliefs of scenes from Shakespearean plays, the inside is designed in a Tudor style with two reading rooms, a theatre, and an exhibition gallery.

Francis A. Gregory Library

3660 Alabama Avenue SE

Architecture team Adjaye Associates and Wiencek Associates designed this award-winning library to achieve LEED Silver certification. It won the AIA Potomac Valley Award in 2012 and the Royal Institute of British Architects International Award in 2013. Opened in June 2012, some of the the features in this library include four study rooms, a children's program room, a larger program room for up to 100 people, and outdoor seating.

Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library

1630 7th Street NW

Tailored for adults, teens, and children, this library features separate reading areas for each group along with a children's program room, eight Mac computers in a teen space, and two 12-person conference rooms. Architecture firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas was behind the designs of the glassy library, which opened in August 2010. A few of the awards that this library has won include the National Association of Contractors and Builders Proclamation Award in 2010 and the AIA DC Award for Merit & Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design in 2010. Wall Street Journal also listed the structure as one of the top buildings of 2010.

Riggs Library

Healy Hall at Georgetown University

This library opened in 1891 and is one of the few extant cast iron libraries in the nation, according to the Georgetown University website. For almost 80 years after its opening, the structure served as the main library for Georgetown University. Now, while also used as a library, the space also serves as a reception hall. The architect behind the structure was Paul Pelz, the same architect behind the Library of Congress.

National Gallery of Art Library

4th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Scholars from all around the world visit the National Gallery of Art for its library in order to search through its image collections, rare books, auction catalogues, and microforms. It opened the same year as the museum, in 1941. In 1979, the library moved into a seven-story facility in the Gallery's East Building. Since then, it has continued to serve the Gallery's staff, visiting scholars, and other researchers in the community with over 400,000 books and periodicals available.

The 10 Most Gorgeous Private Libraries in the D.C. Area [Curbed DC]

DC Public Library - Watha T. Daniel/Shaw

1630 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 727-1288 Visit Website

DC Public Library - Francis A. Gregory

3660 Alabama Ave SE, Washington, D.C. 20020 (202) 698-6373 Visit Website

National Gallery of Art

Constitution Avenue Northwest, , DC 20565 (202) 737-4215 Visit Website

Folger Shakespeare Library

201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, D.C. 20003 (202) 544-7077