Visitors Guide to the
A. B. Safford Memorial Library
1609 Washington Avenue
Cairo, Illinois
618-734-1840
 

 
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Across the street from the Cairo Customs House is the A. B. Safford Memorial Library. This Queen Anne architecture building was constructed in 1883. Mrs. Alfred B. Safford, as a memorial to her husband, who died in 1877 had the library erected by the Lancaster and Rice Mfg. Co., presenting it to the City of Cairo on July 19, 1884. Few changes have been made in the red brick building. The leaded stained glass windows are the original ones. Two niches on the outside of the building at the entrance hold statues of Clio, the Greek Muse of history, and Concordia, a Roman goddess of peace. These were presented to Mrs. Safford by the citizens of Cairo in gratitude for the library.

The first floor consists of a vestibule, hall, the adult reading room, reference room, the children's reading room, and the stack room. In the entrance hall can be seen the wide staircase with ornamental balustrade and wainscoting of walnut, oak and gum, graduated to form an ornate effect typical of the Queen Ann period. This combination of woods is used in the decor of the walls and ceilings throughout the building. In the adult reading room are ornate shelves that were originally in the Woman's Club reading room and now are used for periodicals. The huge round oak table was a gambling table from a steamboat. The chairs with U.S. carved in the backs are from the Custom House, as are the five large walnut display cabinets and the Italian marble mantel of the fireplace, all circa 1867. A rare Tiffany grandfather's clock stands on the first landing of the stairs. The library has been told that only four of this particular kind were made by Tiffany and Co.

On the second landing is a fourteenth century Italian rosewood credenza. The auditorium upstairs was designed to seat 200, and Mrs. Safford provided the appropriate number of chairs, of which there are still 180. The beautiful chandelier originally hung in the Cairo Opera House, which was opened in 1881. In 1962, the new stack room was added to the building to accommodate the increasing number of books in the library's collection. In 1984, a Special Collections Room was added, made possible by funding from the Oris B. Hastings Charitable Foundation. In order to preserve the library's valuable collection of historical materials, a second-floor storeroom was remodeled to create an environment of controlled temperature, humidity and light. The room contains a treasure trove of information, from the Civil War to the 1937 Flood, as well as books, maps, and pictures of importance to Cairo and Alexander County history.

 
     
  Visiting the A. B. Safford Memorial Library
     Hours:
          Monday - Friday: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
          Closed on major holidays

There is no charge to visit the A. B. Memorial Library.
 
   
 
Directions: The A. B. Safford Memorial Library is located at 1609 Washington Avenue in downtown Cairo.
 
   
  GPS Coordinates
37 00.207'
W 89 10.435'
 
   
  Learn more about the Cairo area.  
     
 
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