The A. B. Safford Memorial Library and U.S. Customs House, Cairo, Illinois

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Described by locals as being “Queen Anne,” I would say that the A.B. Safford Library is more an eclectic mix of various styles,with strong Romanesque Revival elements. Regardless, it is a stunning building, whose excellent condition clashes with much of the desolation around it. Inside the 1884 structure is a very nice, and surprisingly high quality collection of antiques from Italy. There is no Raphael painting, despite the claims of many tour books, including AAA’s. I examined the painting, and it is most likely Seventeenth Century, long after his death. It is not even close to his style or one of his followers. Perhaps it’s a little bit emblematic of Cairo, hoping for greatness that has passed it by.

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The facade’s clean lines and lack ornamentation give a timeless quality to the building.

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On either side of the front door, in two alcoves are statues of Roman goddesses.

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The sloppy tuck-pointing in the alcoves is strange.

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Across the street, one of the most beautiful Italianate public buildings I have ever seen in Alfred B. Mullet’s U.S. Customs House.

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With a roofline that reminds me of the Pitti Palace in Florence, this elegant building is the star of the civic buildings in the city.

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Its paired windows, with graceful, rounded windows punctuate a relatively unadorned facade. It opened with great fanfare in 1872, showing how important of a commercial center Cairo had become.

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The interior is well-preserved and shows how the unique ornamentation continued inside the building. It is now a very nice museum on local history.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. john s says:

    the Customs House is lovely indeed. What is the building material?

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Hmm, probably limestone or sandstone. Not sure.

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