Santa Rosa's Carnegie Library

Submitted by gskinner on October 30, 2014 - 4:52pm
  • Public Library, Santa Rosa photo

    Public Library, Santa Rosa (1910 -- SCL photo 4833)

Santa Rosa's Carnegie library served the citizens of Santa Rosa well for almost 60 years--although not without challenges, including the 1906 earthquake. Deferred maintenance and a growing population eventually doomed the magnificent building, leading to construction of the current Central Library in 1960s. This week's post offers glimpses into the Carnegie era.
Petaluman Lucy Kortum compiled a history of Carnegie libraries across California. Her entry on Santa Rosa's library (from the Carnegie Libraries of California website) notes:
Santa Rosa's library history includes several short-lived libraries between 1859 and formation of the Santa Rosa Library Association in 1875. An 1878 offer of this library to the city under the Rogers Act was declined; it was 1884 before the combined efforts of women's organizations and the newspaper editor succeeded in the city taking over the library and providing space in City Hall. In 1890 Santa Rosa hired the county's first professional librarian, Bertha Kumli, who guided the Carnegie project through from the application for $35,000 and acceptance of the offered $20,000 in March, 1902. Community leaders purchased a lot and Sacramento architect E. M. Hoen designed the building in the Romanesque style. The builder was William Peacock of San Francisco. The cornerstone was laid on April 14, 1903 and the building opened on March 10, 1904. Miss Kumli next joined the State Library and achieved a statewide reputation for her work for the county library system and in helping small communities establish public libraries. The Carnegie building was extensively damaged in the 1906 earthquake, and Carnegie provided $6,900 in additional funding for repairs. The building then served as library until 1960 when it was condemned as unsafe. The books were moved to temporary quarters, the old building was demolished in 1964. A new library on the same site was completed in 1967.

Carnegie Library 1902
The new library before landscaping, 1903/04 (SCL photo 1847)

The new Santa Rosa Public Library on Fourth Street at E Street -- the same location as the current Central Santa Rosa Library -- opened to great fanfare in 1904...


Fourth Street entrance after the 1906 earthquake (Photo no. 4792)
Fourth Street entrance after the 1906 earthquake (SCL photo 4792)

...and Just two years later, crumbled in the great 1906 earthquake


Storytime, 1959 (SCL photo 5273)
Cat in the Hat Reading Club awards, 1959 (SCL photo 5273)

The rebuilt library served the citizens, including the children, of Santa Rosa well for many years. Toward the end, Children's Librarian Dagney Jewell and her staff could barely squeeze their young patrons into the children's room.


Entrance to the Santa Free Public Library on 4th Street, 1959 (Photo no. 3826)
Entrance to the Santa Free Public Library on 4th Street, 1959 (SCL photo 3826)

From the outside, the library still looked magnificent...


Interior of the crumbling library, 1960 (Photo no. 5168)
Interior of the crumbling library, 1960 (SCL photo 5168) 

...but on the inside, deferred maintenance had taken its toll and in 1960, the building was condemned.

Patrons at work tables in the library on Exchange Avenue (SCL photo 5251)
Patrons at work tables in the library on Exchange Avenue (SCL photo 5251)

The library moved to (very tight) temporary quarters in rented second floor space opposite Courthouse Square on Exchange Street and a successful campaign was launched to build a new--and larger--public library for Santa Rosa (see the video at the top of this post). 


The last remaining wall, 1964 (SCL photo 4983)
The last remaining wall, 1964 (SCL photo 4983)

Meanwhile the old Carnegie library was reduced to rubble for the last time and the site prepared for the new library that serves Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to this day.

Check out many more images of Santa Rosa's library history in the Sonoma County Local History & Culture.

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