Reading Room (15)

This magnificent space served as a public reading room for 50 years from 1926-1976 for library customers, and then became the Reading Room for the Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) from 1976-2010.

Today, this Reading Room is a multi-purpose area currently used for exhibits, lectures, programs, weddings, receptions, seated luncheons and dinners. For information about booking the reading room for your event, please contact Special Events. When not in use for a special event, it is open to customers looking for a quiet space. It is Wi-Fi enabled and contains plug-in strips for computers along with reading lamps for customers who want to use the room for reading or studying.

As in the other rooms in this building, the ceilings were restored using microscopic color analysis performed on the original layers of paint. The tables and wooden chairs are original to the space, as are the built-in bookshelves. The books are from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center's Warren Culbertson Adult Special Collections.

The alcove on the left at the end of the room was originally the Fine Arts section of the Houston Public Library and the room still houses quite a few works of art. Along the left wall at the rear of the Reading Room is a portrait of John E.T. Milsaps(1852-1932) who donated the largest collection of Salvation Army artifacts in the world. Milsaps began donating in 1903 with 4,000 books. Now the collection contains 12,000 books, 3,000 pamphlets, 74 personal diaries and a large set of bibles.

The statue of Venus de Milo located in from of the arched window was a gift to the Carnegie Library from the Public School Art League—the parent organization of the present Museum of Fine Arts Houston—but has been “at home” in the Julia Ideson Building since 1926. Originally, the Art League intended to place the sculpture in Houston High School  in 1904 as a learning aid for the students. After the School Board expressed some reservations, Julia Ideson volunteered to house the sculpture in the Library. Venus was placed in a place of honor behind the circulation desk. Other objects from the Carnegie Library are displayed in the northeast corner, including Carnegie Library’s original cornerstone.

The gallery on the north side of the room was originally open-air, and was enclosed when the building was air-conditioned in the 1950s. A plaque of this loggia recognizes former Houston Mayor Bill White who initiated the expansion and restoration project for the building in 2006.

The French doors on the opposite side of the room now overlook our back garden as was intended in the original plans of the building, including the addition of another loggia. Sitting in the window ledges are : a sculpture of Sam Houston by Henry Dexter, a sculpture of Stephen F. Austin by John O'Brien, and a plaster bust of George Washington completed in 1932.