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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Uptown Humans — And Dogs — Get A New Little Free Library Thanks To A Neighbor

A new "library" along Sunnyside Mall allows dogs to fetch a stick and leave a stick.

Wayne Johnson made a "dog library" to accompany the new Little Free Library in Uptown.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — It’s no longer only people who can find free entertainment along Uptown’s Sunnyside Mall.

Now dogs have their own little “library” in the pedestrian mall.

The Free Little Library on Sunnyside Mall, near the 4500 block of North Malden Street, was in need of repair. Wayne Johnson, whose nearby duplex condo has a woodworking shop, was asked by his Sheridan Park neighbors to build a replacement library.

After rebuilding the people library, Johnson thought local dogs needed a library of their own, too.

“The mall is a really wonderful element of this neighborhood,” Johnson said. “There’s so many people that use the mall for pets. It just seemed logical.”

The dog library is built at ground level. It’s an open wooden box that can be filled with sticks or other dog toys. On Tuesday, three packs of tennis balls were sitting in the library.

Dogs can’t be off-leash in the pedestrian mall, but some dogs like walking with sticks. The idea is to provide items that dogs can take on their walks or to their homes, Johnson said.

The dog library sits across from the Little Free Library that Johnson built. Little Free Library is a nationwide program where property owners construct wooden libraries along pedestrian routes for a take-one, leave-one local book exchange.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Uptown’s dog library just got a fresh batch of tennis balls.

Sunnyside Mall’s library was made of plywood and was in disrepair. So Johnson made one from cedar, and included design flourishes like horizontal stripes that are inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect Johnson admires.

The libraries were installed by mid-July. Neighbors helped with the installation and took time to hang out along the mall, a popular walking destination in the area, Johnson said.

The mall “really brings people together,” said Johnson, a freelance graphic designer who also leads Chicago architectural river tours.

Johnson usually works in his wood shop as a hobby, but he said he enjoyed doing work with a charitable bent. His next project is turning a tree damaged in last week’s powerful storms into a communal table for his condo building.

The tree was cracked down the middle following the storms that battered the North Side. A crew came out to remove the tree, but Johnson asked them to keep the stump 32 inches high. It will serve as the base for an outdoor table for he and his neighbors, Johnson said.

“We should all be doing something to make our neighborhoods better,” Johnson said in a Youtube video about his library projects. “This is my little effort here.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
The horizontal lines on the new Free Little Library pay homage to Franky Lloyd Wright.

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