Allen Memorial Medical Library

Dittrick Medical History Center

The Dittrick Medical History Center allows both the university community and the public to explore the history of medicine through museum artifacts, archives, rare books collections, and images.

The Allen Memorial Medical Library building serves as the collections hub of the Cleveland Health Sciences Library and home to the Dittrick Medical History Center. Designed by the architectural firm of Frank R. Walker and Harry E. Weeks — noted for more prominent Cleveland structures than any other firm, including the Federal Reserve Bank, Cleveland Public Library and Severance Hall — for the Cleveland Medical Library Association (CMLA), the building’s cornerstone was laid on July 23, 1925, and completed the next year by the Reaugh Construction Company. Elisabeth Severance Allen Prentiss (1865-1944) established the library (and several endowments to provide for its operation and maintenance) to honor her late husband, Dr. Dudley Peter Allen (1852-1915), scion of a prominent Cleveland medical family and a founder of the CMLA.

Considered an architectural prize resembling the Petit Trianon at Versailles on a larger scale, the Allen has been designated both a Cleveland landmark and part of the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by Walker and Weeks in Neoclassic style — from its pink Georgia marble base and exterior steps, Indiana limestone façade, and bronze doors to its marble lobby and interior grand staircase — with reading rooms done in an English university tradition, the library is a visual pleasure. Notable are its four enormous murals above the grand staircase depicting Asklepios, Greek god of medicine, painted by Cleveland School of Art alumna Cora Millet Holden (1895-1938); its intricately stenciled (not wallpapered) walls in the second floor Powell Room; and its portrait of Dr. Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), the “Father of Neurosurgery” (after whom the library’s Cushing Reading Room is named), by renowned Impressionist painter Edmund C. Tarbell (1862-1938).

Shelving structure

Architecturally, the building is something of an optical illusion. Externally, it appears to be three floors with a basement; however, approximately one-third of the building is divided into nine floors of shelving.

Stack Level 9

Sides A & B: Retrospective Journals Collection (Library Use Only)

Side B: Health Professionals Directories (Library Use Only)

Stack Level 8

Side A: Rare Biology & Kirtland Collections (Library Use Only)

Side B: Biological Sciences, Dental, Medical & Nursing Theses (some Circulating)

Stack Level 7

Side A & B: Journals (Titles A; Library Use Only)

Side B: Oversize Monographs (some Circulating)

Stack Levels 5-6

Monographs & Monographic Series (Circulating)

Stack Levels 1-4

Journals (Titles B thru Z; Library Use Only)

Other collections are housed throughout the building, and many locations require staff assistance to access:

Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud & Nicholaus Pol Collections (Library Use Only) — Stecher Room (3rd Floor)
Museum Catalogues & Skuy Contraception Collection (Library Use Only) — Zverina Room (3rd Floor)
History of Medicine Collection (Circulating) — Cushing Reading Room & Lowman Room (2nd Floor)
Allen Reserves (3-day Circulating) — Cushing Reading Room (2nd Floor)
Retrospective Monographs Collection, 1880-1939 (Library Use Only) — CMLA Compact Storage (Basement)
Rare Books, incl. Classics in Anatomy & Herbals (Library Use Only) — Peterson Rare Book Room (Basement)
Retrospective Audiovisual Collection (Library Use Only) — Peterson Rare Book Room (Basement)

Incorporated into the Allen’s many collections are all materials formerly housed at the Health Center Library, which occupied the first two floors of the Robbins Building at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine from 1971 to 2019.

In addition, the building contains the 450-seat Ford Auditorium, utilized daily as a classroom for undergraduate courses in the sciences and engineering, and sporadically for special events with a health-related focus. It also contains the Dittrick Medical History Center, consisting of the Dittrick Museum of Medical History and the Archives, as well as the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation and UCITE.

Please call the Circulation Department at 216.368.3643 or 216.368.6422 for more information.