'This was his dream': Ray Bradbury's collection to be displayed at his Waukegan childhood library

Famed author Ray Bradbury's personal collection of books and artifacts will be preserved and showcased at what had been his childhood library and inspiration in his hometown of Waukegan.

About half his materials were donated upon his death in June 2012 to the Waukegan Public Library, but the bulk of the items have been in storage.

That will change when Bradbury's books and other belongings are relocated to the long-vacant former Carnegie Library at Washington Street and Sheridan Road, which is undergoing a $13.5 million restoration and repurposing.

Plans involving the Waukegan History Museum at the Carnegie include the restoration of the children's reading room, where Bradbury was a frequent visitor. There, his love of books and authors was nurtured and he was inspired to become a writer.

"I was born in Waukegan in 1920 and had my second birth at the Carnegie Library in Waukegan," Bradbury is quoted in "Waukegan: A History" published by the Waukegan Historical Society in 2009.

"I came to full bloom there, and when I was 12, after reading most of the books in that fantastic library, I became Ray Bradbury," he said.

The society, which is spearheading the Carnegie restoration with the Waukegan Park District, recently finalized a partnership with the Waukegan Public Library board to preserve and showcase the Bradbury collection.

"This was his dream," said Lori Nerheim, president of the historical society. "It's going to where he really wanted it to go."

The author lived in Waukegan until 1934, when the family moved to Los Angeles. But he didn't forget his hometown and referred to it as Green Town in many of his works, including "Dandelion Wine," "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Farewell Summer."

Books Bradbury collected from childhood through his adult life, letters, postcards, photos and other materials are among thousands of items that will be relocated.

"Our intent is to keep it together as a collection, preserve it and make it available" to accredited researchers, Nerheim said. The first step is to inventory and review the materials, which fill more than 200 boxes.

"We value our partnership with the Waukegan Public Library and welcome the opportunity to share Ray Bradbury's legacy through programs, events and special displays," Nerheim said.

Tiffany Verzani, the library's executive director, said the board knows the value of the collection it's sharing and looks forward to seeing school visits, scholars, Bradbury fans and tourists visiting the museum and the library.

Meanwhile, work on the building restoration is progressing. Substantial earthwork to allow for an addition on the sloped site has been ongoing, and footings could be poured in a week or two.

"So far, things are proceeding on schedule with no major surprises," Nerheim said.

Inside, the original millwork, windows, door casings, baseboards and picture moldings have been removed and are being cataloged and restored. Significant structural work also has been completed on the two lower levels.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in October. Construction was expected to take about a year.

Writer, Waukegan native Ray Bradbury dead at 91

Library to inherit Bradbury collection

'You'll see history come to life': Renovation of long-closed Carnegie Library in Waukegan begins

This photo shows the children's reading room at the Carnegie Library in Waukegan in 1903. Courtesy of Waukegan Historical Society Archives
The former Carnegie Library opened in 1903 on Sheridan Road and Washington Street in downtown Waukegan. Courtesy of the Waukegan Historical Society
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.