Best Public Library

St. Louis Public Library Carpenter Branch

While the majestic Central Library casts quite a shadow upon its subordinate branches, the city has plenty of other luminous libraries that shine brightly on their own. The most dazzling of all is the Carpenter branch on South Grand Boulevard, an impressive structure that serves as an epicenter of activity: No other library is busier, and only two other locations best it in terms of circulation. But beneath Carpenter's day-to-day bustle lies a history rich with mystery and strongly named men. Case in point, architect William T. Trueblood started work on the building in 1925 and drew inspiration from the lofty, ornate archways and wide spaces of Florence's Loggia dei Lanzi. The library opened two years later and has since undergone several renovations over the decades. During one restoration in the 1940s, a mural commemorating the Louisiana Purchase became damaged and was taken down for a touchup. Curiously, the painting has not been seen since, although one fact about it is undeniable: The mural's artist, Washington University professor Charles Quest, had a very strong name indeed.

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