On the Corner

By Phila Rogers, Special to the Planet
Tuesday April 01, 2008

The North Branch occupies a prominent corner on a triangular site bordered by The Alameda, Hopkins and Josephine streets. The Mediterranean-style building, flanked by four gnarled old olive trees, was designed by James W. Placek, the architect responsible for the Central Library.  

In 1921, a special library building tax funded the construction of the Central Library and the South Branch and Claremont Branch buildings. But when it was time to build the North Branch in 1936, funds were low. A depression-era Public Works Administration (PWA) grant made up the short-fall providing almost half the cost, but because of the budget constraints, a planned kitchen and club rooms had to be eliminated from the final plans. 

The first North Branch library began on another corner when in 1910 it occupied the upper floor of a Victorian building on the southeast corner of Vine and Shattuck. Before moving to its present home, the library had moved to the Penniman mansion at present-day Life Oak Park.  

Today’s building is full of charming details like the decorative panel of tiles below the front window, the wrought iron light fixtures flanking the main entrance, and the whimsical round windows high on the walls. 

Those who love and use North Branch look to the day when the library can expand on the buildable land behind the present building.