Who Knew? Anyone can join Mercantile Library for peace & quiet, not to mention intellectual pursuits

CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is home to many fascinating facts, offbeat oddities, and "I did not know that," moments. With that in mind, WCPO asks "Who Knew?"

  • What is it? Cincinnati’s hidden library: The Mercantile
  • Where can I see it? 414 Walnut Street, 11th Floor
  • Who knew? Chris Messick, The Mercantile Library

High atop a nondescript downtown office building, The Mercantile Library has been gathering place for Cincinnati intellectuals for more than 175 years. Chances are, many people who walk by its front door at Fourth and Walnut Street on a daily basis don’t even know it's there.

Climb aboard the library's very own elevator to reach the library and crack open a book in the Reading, which is open to the pubic. The collection (which has a searchable database) is members-only.

Q&A with Chris Messick, Marketing Manager for "The Merc"

1.When and why was The Mercantile Library founded?

The Mercantile was founded in 1835 by a group of young merchants and clerks, who pooled their books and their resources for their own intellectual benefit.

2. What makes The Mercantile Library a hidden gem in Cincinnati?

Well, the hidden part is easy. We’re tucked away on the 11th floor and we don’t have much in the way of street presence. Luckily, the gem part is easy too. We have one of the most beautiful public spaces in the city, which members can use to work, relax, eat lunch, read, or flip through a magazine.

We’re also very proud of our events calendar , which includes book discussions, poetry and Shakespeare groups, lectures on history, art and architecture, concerts, and film screenings.

Also, we’ve brought some great writers in to speak through the years, including Herman Melville, William Makepeace Thackeray, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Updike, Tom Wolfe, Annie Proulx, Salman Rusdhie, Seamus Heaney, and many, many more.

3. What can you find at The Mercantile that cannot be found at a public library?

Peace and quiet. A beautiful bust-lined reading room. An events calendar full of book discussions, concerts, film screenings, discussion groups, community events, and lectures by top-notch authors. A friendly staff that knows your name, and knows what you like to read. Also, there is less demand for titles around here, so you will often find books on our shelves that have long waiting lists at the public library.

6. What can we expect for the future of this historic landmark?

We have a 10,000-year lease on our space, and our 10,000-year lease is renewable.

"The lease was issued by the Cincinnati College, from which the University of Cincinnati College of Law descended." - CincinnatiUSA.com

Want to join The Mercantile?

  • Individuals: $55 a year
  • Households: $90 a year for households 
  • You can join in person
  • Join by phone: 513-621-0717 or online

Check back next Tuesday for another edition of "Who Knew?" If you have an tip, idea or question email: holly.edgell@wcpo.com.

Connect with WCPO Contributor Paige E. Malott on Twitter: @Paigetastic01 , and check out her blog CincyWhimsy.com

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