Central Library history

Portland’s historic Central Library in downtown first opened in September 1913. The original architects were Doyle, Patterson & Beach. Notable features throughout the library include; the bronze tree in the Children’s Library by Dana Lynn Louis and Barbara Eisworth, the black granite grand staircase and the massive light fixture in the second floor by Larry Kirkland, and the John Wilson room.

Central Library closed for renovations in 2023. The library reopened in 2024 with several updates. 


2024 The library reopened. Updates include a new terrace space, improved ADA access, refreshed restrooms, a new teen space, updated collections, new automated technologies, fresh paint and furniture. 

2023 Closed March 11, 2023 for updates and construction.

2020 In November 2020, Multnomah County voters approved a $387 million capital bond to build and transform library buildings across the county. Central Library was scheduled to be renovated and expanded.

2013 Central Library celebrated its 100th anniversary.

1997 After more than two years of construction, Central Library opened again on April 8.

1994-1997 While the Central Library building was being renovated, the library operated out of a temporary space called TransCentral, in an office building on SW Columbia Street, between 4th and 5th avenues. 

Early 1990s A structural analysis demonstrated a serious deficiency in the support partitions, requiring installation of scaffolding to protect patrons and staff from falling masonry. 

1979 The building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1913 The building was ceremonially dedicated on September 6. According to The Oregonian from September 7, 1913, "Hundreds of visitors flocked to the building, filling the halls, and went to and fro in the great rooms with a hint of the elated swagger that is a symptom of the 'joy of possession.'"

1911 The Portland Library Association purchased the block in what was at that time the outskirts of downtown Portland. Portland architect Albert E. Doyle, from the firm Doyle, Patterson & Beach designed the new building. 

1893 The Stark Street Library opened to the public. See historical pictures