The Library in Healdsburg.
Early Healdsburg Libraries
There were several libraries in Healdsburg before the City of Healdsburg took over control of the library and made it part of the City Hall in 1896. The Russian River Institute, the Sotoyome Literary Society, The Public Library Association (a subscription library run by Masonic Lodge) all attest to Healdsburg’s need and determination to have a library. However, the wonderful brick building that was Healdsburg’s City Hall finally gave the library a proud, tax-supported home. This building was where the Oakville Grocery is today. Despite having survived the 1906 earthquake, this building was torn down in 1960.
In 1911, the City of Healdsburg received a grant from the Carnegie Foundation to build a new library. The Foundation, started by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, would build a library for a community if the community agreed to donate the land, to hire a librarian and to fill the building with books. A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built throughout the world between 1883 and 1929, including four in Sonoma County: Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Petaluma. All except the Santa Rosa building still stand.
From 1911 to 1988 the lovely Greek Revival building at the corner of Fitch and Matheson served as the town library. Many Healdsburgers have fond memories of this library which still serves the city as its museum.
The Odyssey for a New Library Building
In 1975 Healdsburg City Library joined the Sonoma County Library. The city showed great vision and common sense in joining. They got more library service for their money, agreeing to provide a library building capitol improvements for it.
By the early 1980s it was clear that the Carnegie Library building was inadequate for Healdsburg’s library needs. This started a process that lasted several years to find a site for the new library. Healdsburg Tribune articles from the era show how long and convoluted that search was. At one point seven different sites were offered to the public to vote upon. None of these turned out to be the final selection.
The New Home and the Wine Library
The Sonoma County Wine Library was an idea nurtured by Millie Howie, a local writer. Born from the formation of the Russian River Wine Road, the idea was for a wine library that would be a special library for the area wine industry, supported by the industry itself. David Sabsay, then the Sonoma County Librarian, after initial reluctance, bought into the idea, and helped make it happen.
The quest for a new library site and building was thus joined to the concept of a wine library and both had a soft opening in early October, 1988. The building's official opening and dedication took place on November 5, 1988.