The original Central Library building, located on St. Clair Street and extending from Meridian to Pennsylvania Streets, was completed in October, 1917 at a cost of $510,000. Designed by Paul Cret and built in the Greek Doric style, it was considered one of the most outstanding architectural library structures in the United States. Fittingly, its exterior is of Indiana limestone built on a base of Vermont marble, with carved stone cornices adding to its beauty. A broad expanse of steps leads up to the entrance, which is framed by impressive Greek columns.
On March 24, 1916, the Indianapolis community celebrated the laying of the new Library's cornerstone. A grandstand to seat three hundred guests was built for the event. South of the grandstand, St. Clair Park formed a natural stadium for the audience. Five hundred invitations were mailed to officials and prominent citizens, including then past and present members of the Board of School Commissioners who were honored guests. A chorus of 1,000 school children, under the leadership of Edward Bailey Birge, director of music for the public schools, sang "The Messiah of the Nations," written for the occasion by James Whitcomb Riley, with music composed by John Phillip Sousa. (source)