The groundbreaking ceremony for Olin Library was held on May 3, 1960. The library opened in 1962 and dedication exercises took place on May 2, 1963. Two floors of the library are located below ground, a feature that was included in the design because the University did not want the building to overpower the surrounding area, and because the architects (Joseph Murphy and Eugene Mackey of St. Louis) felt that such a move would enhance access to all five floors of the building. Olin Library took the place of the library housed in Ridgley Hall.
(Note: Current University regulations stipulate that buildings cannot be higher than the roof line of Brookings Hall. The official height of the roof line of Brookings is 585.77 feet above sea level. Source: Facilities Planning and Management)
On May 7, 2004, Olin Library was rededicated after an expansion and comprehensive renovation. Begun in May 2001, the project transformed a 40+-year-old building into a library for the 21st century. The library remained open throughout the three-year renovation, fulfilling its central and unique role at Washington University. On the average day, some 3,000 individuals visit Olin Library, making it one of the most-visited buildings on campus.
John M. Olin received his M.S. in Chemistry in 1913 and began work immediately with his father at Equitable Powder Manufacturing Company; by 1918, he was Vice President of Western Cartridge Company, a subsidiary of Equitable Powder Manufacturing. When the companies were consolidated, Olin was elected President of the new Olin Industries. In 1954, Olin merged with Mathieson Chemical Corporation, with over 100 plants, warehouses, and branches in the U.S., as well as many affiliates in foreign countries. Olin was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the new Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. He served on the Board of Trustees of Washington University, and gave $1 million, used for the construction of Olin Library.