History of Allen Memorial Medical Library

The Allen Memorial Medical Library building serves as the collections hub of the Cleveland Health Sciences Library. Designed by the architectural firm of Frank R. Walker and Harry E. Weeks 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 Memorial Medical Library 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).

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

Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud & Nicolaus 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)

In addition to its many print collections, the building also 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, 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.