The Multnomah County Central Library is the flagship building of the Multnomah Country library system, built in 1913 and on the National Register of Historic Places.
The building is located on 10th and Yamhill, three blocks from Pioneer Courthouse Square, considered to be the heart of downtown Portland. It is three stories tall and takes up a city block, making it (arguably) the largest public building in downtown Portland. The library has a large selection of books and other materials, as could be expected, but even if all of the books were taken out, and the building converted into a used hub cap store, it would still be one of the most beautiful buildings in Portland.
The library is built in what is described as a Georgian Revival style, but what in simple terms seems to be a style that is simple without being too utilitarian, and nuanced without being gothic. The brick building is punctuated with high arched windows that allow ample light to enter, and is also surrounded with tall Elm Trees that shade that light. Inscriptions of the names of famous authors ring the library and the benches outside. The interior of the library is also spectacular in a non-gaudy way, with a grand staircase running from the first floor to the third. Each one of the floors has a large lobby, with archways on either side, leading to different rooms. The second floor lobby, which has ceilings that seem to be twenty feet tall, supported by thick white pillars. The top floor lobby, which is used as a gallery and for musical recitals, has a large domed skylight overhead.
The library was renovated in 1994-1995 for both structural and artistic reasons. It cost over 20 million dollars, but it was well worth it. My only complaint is that it seems silly to have such large lobbies, when they could provide more store room for sweet, sweet books.
Part of the remodelling included wiring the library for computer networking, and the Central Library is one of the best places for visitors to Portland to use a computer. That being so, the computers usually have a long waiting line, as travellers and the indigent wait to use a computer. Also, the first floor of the library, which contains the popular library, contains a Starbucks, which may offend some purists.