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Library history

 

Joy Morton and Professor Sprague Sargent
Suggestions For Development

1921

When Joy Morton began planning for an arboretum in 1921, Professor Charles Sprague Sargent, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, advised Mr. Morton on the selection of botanical and horticultural works, providing duplicates from the Arnold Arboretum Library and suggesting other sources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings Of A Collection
Thornhill Morton Residence Library Wing

1922

In the Spring of 1922, Mr. Morton authorized Professor Sargent to begin purchasing books for The Morton Arboretum.  The timing was fortuitous since important private English libraries were being dissolved after World War I, making it possible to acquire many fine works.  These, together with appropriate books from the Morton family's own collections, formed the foundation of the library's early collections.  The collection was housed in the library wing, which was added to the Morton residence at Thornhill in 1922 (now known as the Founder's Room).

 

Administration Building

 

Administration Building Commission

1934

 

After Joy Morton's death in 1934, his daughter, Jean Morton Cudahy, became Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  As a memorial to her father, she commissioned the building of the original Administration Building.

 

 

 

Administration Building Completed
First library in the Admin Building

1936

Completed in 1936, the Administration Building included rooms for a small library and herbarium.  The rare books, many of them oversized, remained at Thornhill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lowell Kammerer
E. Lowell Kammerer's Role

1936

 

The responsibility for book selections was given to E. Lowell Kammerer, Curator of Collections, and during the next quarter-century the collections grew at a steady pace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sterling Morton's Vision
Sterling Morton

1953

In 1953, following the death of Mrs. Cudahy, her brother, Sterling Morton, became Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  He recognized the need to classify and house all the books in a central library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sterling Morton Library Exterior
In Memory Of Sterling Morton

1961

 

Unfortunately, Sterling Morton died in 1961 before his plans for a central library were realized.  However, his widow, Preston Owsley Morton, together with their daughter Suzette, chose to build a library addition to the east side of the Administration Building as a memorial to her husband.

 

 

 

 

Suzette Morton's Contribution
Suzette Morton Davidson

1961 to 1977

After Sterling Morton's death, his daughter Suzette chaired the Board of Trustees from 1961 until 1977.  To instill in visitors a sense of the relationship between art and nature, she promoted the study of botanical art at the Arboretum and began The Morton Arboretum Quarterly, which included essays, original art, and plant information.  During these years, she purchased many rare books and artworks for the Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sterling Morton Library Main Reading Room
Sterling Morton Library Grand Opening

October 1963

In October 1963, the Sterling Morton Library officially opened.  Harry Weese, a Chicago architect, was commissioned to design the new library wing.  The new library featured a reading room in the shape of an oval with a fireplace flanked by curved, freestanding cherry wood bookcases.  Handmade terra-cotta clay tiles on the floor complement the wood of the bookcases and create a warm inviting space.

 

 

 

May T. Watts Reading Garden
May T. Watts Reading Garden

October 1963

Along with the Sterling Morton Library, a walled garden just outside the library opened as well. The garden is in honor of May Theilgaard Watts, notable past Morton Arboretum naturalist and educator.  The May T. Watts Reading Garden is an intimate space where espaliered trees and a vine covered arbor help to create the perfect spot to catch up on a good book on a warm summer's day.

 

 

 

Sterling Morton Library Special Collections Vault

Suzette Morton Davidson Special Collections

2000

 

Suzette's contribution was so significant that in 2000 her successor as Board of Trustees chair, Charles C. Haffner III, built a secure, climate-controlled addition to the library to house the Special Collections and named the collections in her honor - the Suzette Morton Davidson Special Collections.