The Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago Library began when The Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago took over the Acacia Library in the 1860's. In the 1920's, The Valley of Chicago Library had as many as five full time librarians who devoted time to cataloging and expanding the book collection. They actively sought proceedings from Masonic bodies throughout the world and subscribed to all Masonic publications, which were then cataloged and bound. Our extensive card catalog contains perhaps the largest detailed catalog of Masonic Publications from 1840 to 1933.

The Valley of Chicago occupies three old homes built after the Chicago fire, which are connected to the Cathedral by a series of doors and stairwells. Each of the three was a substantial house with many rooms and stairwells at the rear for servants. They face Washington Park to the West on Dearborn. The six living room parlors, and the halls separating them, contain part of the Scottish Rite Collection of approximately 15,000 volumes of proceedings of the Northern, Southern & Foreign Jurisdictions of Supreme Councils, State Councils of Deliberation, Grand Chapter, Grand Council of Cryptic Masons, Grand Commandery, the Order of the Eastern Star, Masonic youth organizations, Imperial and Regional Shrine and individual scrapbooks of Medinah Potentates. Several hundred non Masonic works are available in Parlor E which is our lecture hall and contains bound copies of most Masonic publications from 1840 to 1933.

The main library was added to the rear of George H. Taylor Home in the 1920's. It is two stories high with a beautiful fireplace, 20 built in glassed bookcases, natural wood column supports, and houses the main collection of about 5,000 Masonic works. In the hall approaching the library are five cases seven shelves high for the complete Grand Lodge Proceedings of the State of Illinois and a large collection of Masonic related books. There is also a complete set of the official US publication of all letters, orders, battle plans and maps of the army and navy during the Civil War.

In 1986 William Capodanno became librarian and with the help of Harry Strouse, Bud Goff and Earl Nelson started to rehabilitate what had become a mess after more than fifty years of neglect. A Masonic cataloging system was designed by Harry Strouse using as its base the Boyden system provided by Ms. Ingeborg Baum, Librarian, Scottish Rite Library in Washington, DC with suggestions and much help. All books are filed using our catalog numbers.

The entire library has been computerized using a Macintosh data base making any volume accessible in seconds by any one of ten separate references including title, author, or content.

As Bud Goff and Earl Nelson left new volunteers began to help. For a short time Harold Spelman started to catalog publications. John Barton spent several years to complete the main library of 5,000 volumes which is accurately cataloged, verified and computer accessible. A substantial surplus of Masonic books was uncovered as books were found in more than thirty rooms around the buildings. In 1997 we began to sell surplus books and have raised about $7,000 for the purchase of new books and publications. Two large rooms in the basements were equipped with shelves and Charles Balmer undertook to place these in order to hold our surplus. The catacomb room holds our duplicate library which we hope to convert into a lending library. In addition we have several sets of Illinois Grand Lodge, NJ Supreme Council and IL Council of Deliberation Proceedings. The Steward's room holds books for sale or trade and Grand Lodge Proceedings of the states.

Recently Read Rogers has undertaken the job of straightening the books in the parlors. Eventually these will be stored to make them easily accessible and computerized.

Finally our catalog system was expanded to cover 22,000 items of wardrobe, stage backdrops, art objects and works, museum items and thousands of photographs. John Vanik, Richard Druse, Reid Selseth, Stephen Selseth and Sheridan Ostrander all added additional part time help. It is a continuing project but developing into the major Masonic research center in the Midwest. The Catalog system, the library catalog, books and some artifacts are available, for purchase or trade. We always accept donations of Masonic books and literature and can be accessed directly or through the Internet. Enquiries about the library can be sent to: Greg Klemm.

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