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  • Central Library Architecture - Brief History

    Let us start your tour with a brief history of the Pasadena Public Library. Central Library is the third of three buildings the Library has occupied since its founding in 1882.

    Pasadena Public Library was founded  December 26, 1882 as private subscription library under the name "Pasadena Library and Village   Improvement Society." The Library's founding thus predates the City's incorporation by four years.

    Our first building was on Central School grounds, south side of Colorado St. between Raymond St.and Santa Fe tracks, and opened Feb. 26, 1884. This building was moved to 42 West Dayton St. in 1886.

    Our second building, which opened on Sept. 9, 1890, was an impressive stone structure located on the southeast corner of Walnut Street at Raymond Avenue in what is now known as memorial Park.

    Although this building was expanded in 1901 and Children’s services had moved to a bungalow in Library Park, the existing space was insufficient to meet the needs of a growing City.

    Influenced by a nationwide "City Beautiful" movement, Pasadenans began to discuss building a civic center as early as 1902. In 1922, the Chicago firm of Bennett, Parsons, and Frost were hired to devise a plan for Pasadena. In June 1923, the voters approved a $3.5 million bond issue to build the Library, City Hall, and Civic Auditorium according to the arrangement proposed by the Bennett, Parsons, and Frost plan.

    An architectural competition was held to choose the architects for all three buildings. Ten California architectural firms were invited to submit drawings for all three buildings and were advised to use the architectural styles of the Renaissance or later periods as found in Mediterranean countries.

    In 1924, the design for the Library submitted by the firm of Myron Hunt and H.C. Chambers placed first. The beautiful entry, patio, handsome facade, and good provision for expansion were key factors in the decision.

    Construction began May 19, 1925 . This is why the year 1925 is carved in Roman numerals over the front entrance of the building after "Public Library of the City of Pasadena."

    Central Library was dedicated on Lincoln's birthday (February 12), 1927, the first building in Pasadena's now famous Civic Center. The Library, as well as the entire Civic Center, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, Central Library has been the location for some major motion pictures.

    Central Library underwent a massive, historically sensitive restoration and renovation, which took place between 1984 and 1990.

    The Pasadena Public Library Foundation paid for all interior restoration with the exception of the book stacks, which were funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds.

    The Foundation was formed in 1983 as a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation and to date has raised over $3 million in individual, foundation, and corporate gifts specifically earmarked for architectural renovation and preservation of Central Library.