Door Number 6
If you’ve spent some time at the Hill, you may have noticed the 12 numbered rooms along the south wall of the building. These doors, while now office spaces and bathrooms, once served as study rooms that housed a myriad of researchers, authors and artists.
One such author by the name of Mr. Richardson B. Okie spent almost every day between the war years of 1938 and 1942 in study room 6. This particular study room is located on the mezzanine level, directly behind the large painting of James J. Hill on the Reading Room wall. Mr. Okie was a St. Paul-ite who took to study room 6 so well that he even came in on his wedding day.
We tracked down one of Mr. Okie’s published stories that showed up in the May 1941 edition of The Atlantic magazine, which was of course penned in study room 6. It’s an article called, “When Greek Met Greek. A Story,” which is a fictional account of whistling men recalling the tales of ancient Sparta.
The study rooms at the Hill harken back to a time when the book collection comprised of topics in every subject (with the exception of law, medicine, and fiction). They supported the “serious researcher” that James J. Hill envisioned would be attracted to his library. While many of the original books that Mr. Okie would have poured over are now gone, we look to our Empire Builder collection on library floor “5” for our oldest titles – look for the bright green dots on the book spines to spot one.
Learn more of the story behind the Hill Center, these images and the epic building in our Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. In this one hour experience you will go back in time, up and down catwalks, through vaults and peek in hidden nooks and crannies. Our October tour is coming up so get your tickets early!
Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].