Rush Rhees Library: History

8:00 am - 3:00 am | All Hours




                       President Rush Rhees


Historical Spaces


The Welles Brown Room

The Roger B. Friedlander Lobby
The Hawkins Carlson Room

The Gleason Library

The Great Hall

The Business and Governement Information Library

The Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room

The Messinger Graduate Study North


The Hopeman Memorial Carillon


A Guide For a Walk Through the Library

(Rebecca Resinski)







About Those Owls










             Bells of the original Hopeman chime                




          Rush Rhees Library                                  Sibley Hall                                             Great Hall


     The Library opened concurrently with the University in its first home in the former United States Hotel on Rochester’s West Main Street which it shared with the Rochester Theological Seminary.  The first book purchased for the library was Principles of the Mechanics of Machinery and Engineering by Julius Weisbach.

     In the beginning professors were assigned oversight of the collection, a common practice for smaller colleges at that time.  The first Catalogue lists Tutor Albert H. Mixer as the University’s first Librarian.  In 1870, the first card catalog, containing records for 9,560 books, was handwritten by the Librarian Otis Hall Robinson and his assistants.  Prof. Robinson invented the rod-in-hole technique to keep the formerly loose cards in order.  The first separate library building was Sibley Hall, which opened in 1877 on the Prince Street campus north of University Avenue.  The building was used by the University as a library until 1955.  Four symbolic statues, which long adorned Sibley Hall, are now on the lawn south of Rush Rhees Library.  The sphinxes which guarded the entrance door of the Sibley Library are now located at the tunnel entrance between Lattimore and Morey Halls.  The original part of Rush Rhees Library opened in 1930 with the completion of the River Campus.  A major addition to the building opened in 1969.

The Library was named after Rush Rhees, University President from 1900 to 1935, during which time the UR evolved from a small college to a multifaceted research

The Building
     The original 1930 Library building faces the Eastman Quadrangle and is built in the Greek Revival style.  This part contains the University’s historic rooms, as well as the “old stacks” and the tower.  When constructed, the architects assumed that the building would at some point require an addition.  The substantial addition of 1969 was “wrapped around” the back and part of the sides of the original building.  The addition is of a more modern style and can easily be differentiated from the original.  The main entrance to the addition is on Library Road.  This newer part of the Library has a more expansive atmosphere and a much larger stack area.  Today it contains the Gleason Library, the IT center, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and much else.  Its flexible space enables a variety of uses to evolve as needed. 

The Tower
          Rush Rhees Library tower is 186 feet high.  The Hopeman Carillon, which replaced the original bell chime from 1930, is the largest musical instrument in the city and one of the largest in the country.  It contains fifty bells which were imported from Holland.  Its total weight is 6,668 pounds.  The carillon was dedicated in 1973.  The original Hopeman Memorial Chime of 17 bells was given to the University in 1930 by the daughter and two sons of Arendt Willem Hopeman in memory of their father.  Mr. Hopeman’s firm of A.W. Hopeman and Sons had been general contractors for the new River Campus.  Take a few seconds and hear the carillon from the Rush Rhees Tower.  Students enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area during the annual Halloween Scare Fair and during Senior Week each year.



United States Hotel(first home of the Library was in this building)










Staff Login | Privacy Statement | Copyright & Fair Use

Copyright © 1998-2019 University of Rochester Libraries. All Rights Reserved.