The Newberry Library was established in 1887. Funding was from the estate of Walter Loomis Newberry. The bequest was in the amount of $2.2 million. Newberry was a successful Chicago entrepreneur. He wanted to provide a free public library north of the Chicago River. Estate trustees William Bradley and Elphalet W. Blatchford moved to establish the library.
From 1887 to 1888, the library was located at 90 South LaSalle Street. From 1889 to 1890, it was located at 338 Ontario Street. From 1890 to 1893, it was located at State and Oak Street.
The estate trustees hired William.Frederick Poole as the first librarian. He purchased 25,000 books in the first year and one half of his tenure. He had purchased 120,000 volumes and 44,000 pamphlets by the end of his tenure in 1894.
The current building was designed by William Poole and architect Henry Ives Cobb. It opened in 1893. It is located at 60 W. Walton Street across from Washington Square Park. The building style is Spanish Romanesque. It is built with Connecticut granite.