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Friedsam Library was originally constructed in 1937, in the ornate brick and terra cotta style of the old part of the University campus. With several other buildings, it constitutes a unique grouping. The building and its neighbors were designed by noted Buffalo architect Chester Oakley, and the Florentine architecture creates a link with the University's intellectual roots in the Italy of St. Francis and St. Bonaventure. Architectural features include an ornate entry surmounted by a relief depicting Mary highlighted in gold leaf, a vaulted lobby, and an exceptional reading room.
A substantial addition was made to the library in 1974. This addition faces the newer portion of the campus, and respects the original architecture in dramatic fashion by including originally exterior walls in a three-level stair lobby.