Planning the John K. Mullen of Denver of Memorial Library


Murphy & Olmsted's architectural rendering of the proposed library.

            The university formed a Library Committee consisting of Dr. Edward Aloysius Pace, Rt. Rev. Eugene Xavier Henri Hyvernat, Rev. R. Butin, Mr. Joseph Schneider, and Frederick Murphy. Murphy & Olmsted Architects were selected to design the new university library. The “Murphy” of this architecture partnership referred to Frederick Vernon Murphy, the first professor of Catholic University’s Department of Architecture (now the School of Architecture and Planning). Starting at Catholic in 1911, Professor Murphy would become the unofficial “University Architect” as he and the fourth rector Thomas J. Shahan constructed many iconic university buildings still standing today. At the time of the designing of the John K. Mullen of Denver of Memorial Library, Professor Murphy and his partner Walter B. Olmsted had already completed Graduate Hall (now O’Connell), Maloney Chemical Laboratory, Salve Regina and the gymnasium (now the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies).

            Murphy & Olmsted completed the specifications for the new library in 1924. This monumental building would be constructed of Kentucky limestone and Massachusetts granite, with a façade dominated by a colonnade and large windows to provide abundant natural light. The interior would include a dramatic central marble staircase and a second floor reading room with soaring ceilings. This new library would have the capacity for one million volumes, in addition to various offices and seminar rooms. An architectural rendering of the new library appears in the opening pages of the Cardinal Yearbook of 1925, across from the yearbook’s dedication: “To John K. Mullen, as an expression of our gratitude for his generosity and interest in the Catholic University.”