Inside St. Louis Public Library's Central Library in downtown St. Louis, there's a collection of books so important, valuable, and rare, you won't find them on display. They're tucked away in a hidden room. A room you might have walked by countless times.
"Other people notice the door and a lot of people think there's nothing behind it," said Mary Frechette, Senior Subject Specialist in the Fine Arts Room and Steedman Librarian .
The only way to see what's behind this door is if you ask librarian Mary Frechette for access.
"People ask, yeah, but it's not open very often because of the value of the books in here," she said.
It's hard to puy a price on this collection because according to the st. louis public library, there's nothing else like it. This rarely visited place is known as the Steedman Architectural Library.
She said, "A man named George Fox Steedman gave it to the St. Louis Public Library. It comprises books about architecture and what he called allied arts, mostly rare and valuable books."
George Steedman was a wealthy businessman from the Central West End who loved architecture. In 1928, he donated his collection of architectural books to the St. Louis Public Library.
"He paid for the room to be designed and built especially to house it. To have here in St. Louis for local architects and other researchers to be inspired to do great work in St. Louis," Mary said.
He also left an endowment to so the library could add new books and select rare ones. Today there are about 1500 books behind these doors. Some date back to the 16th century. The Steedman Library isn't used everyday but when it is, s for a specific purpose.
"You should ask me for an appointment, yeah. And you should have a legitimate research need to use one of these," Mary said.
Even when researchers find a book, they aren't allowed to sit in this room and read it.
"Researchers actually can't come in here and stay and they are too valuable in the room and we require they be used out in the reading room to be observed," she said.
A private room in a public library
"It's kind of an unusual thing to have this semi private rare thing to be in a puiblic library," she said.
Starting February 27th, the Society of Architectural Historians present a series of lectures called Architecture around the world. Between 6 and 6:25 PM, the Steedman Library open for viewing before the lecture. For more information, you can call 314-539-0327 or steedman.slpl.org.