HB Photo Flashback: The historic Carnegie Library goes up in flames


Carnegie libraries were built from monies donated by famed Scottish businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built around the world. Most of the beautiful buildings were created in a number of architectural styes, including Beaux-Arts, Baroque, Italian Renaissance and more. Outside every library was a lamppost or lantern to represent a symbol of enlightenment.

And we had one right here in Huntington Beach.

It was built in 1913, located at 8th and Walnut, and here is some background about its history from the Carnegie Foundation: Free library service in Huntington Beach was available in 1907, through the state’s traveling library program, which rotated 50 books to rural communities. In 1909 the city incorporated and that same year Mr. R. W. Blodget and Mrs. R. H. Lindgren brought the matter of a library to the Huntington Beach Board of Trade. The Women’s Club of Huntington Beach then called a public meeting and formed a Library Association. They refurbished an old building, acquired old furniture and books, and provided necessary heat and utilities. By the end of the year the city took over the library. Carnegie funding was sought and in late 1913 a $10,000 grant was offered. Architects Tuttle and Hopkins designed the Classical Revival building. The builder was W.D. Lambert of Long Beach. The building opened in 1914, serving the community as a library until a new building was completed in 1951, after which the Carnegie building was demolished.



Here is some additional information from the HB city page:

In February, 1913, councilmen received notification of the $10,000 grant and they notified the Library Board to begin discussing plans for the new library. In August, 1913, the Carnegie Corporation accepted the plans and W. D. Lambert of Long Beach received the contract. The cornerstone of the Carnegie Library was laid during a big ceremony. The history of the city, the library, names of all those who had served on the Library Board, city trustees, pastors of the churches, members of the Board of Trade, names of those who had served on the library staff, the name of each child in the schools and a small American flag were enclosed in the stone. In a little over four years the number of volumes in the library had risen from 328 volumes to 2800 volumes, 700 of which were donated by residents of the city. The main floor of the new Carnegie Library housed an adult reading room, a children’s department and the librarian’s office. The lecture room, a reference room and the furnace room were located downstairs. The Chamber of Commerce was located in the lecture room until 1921. In order to be more responsive to community needs the Library Board decided to establish a reading room at 205 Main Street. The reading room was open the same hours as the main library, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The reading room was used for a three-year period from 1928 until August, 1931.

In March, 1933, the Carnegie Library suffered considerable damage in the great earthquake which struck the area. The board authorized Catching Brothers Company to make the necessary repairs to the Carnegie building. 1934 saw the library lose its librarian of 23 years when Bertha Reynolds (formerly Proctor) resigned. She had seen the library grow from the small building at Walnut Avenue and 3rd Street to the Carnegie Building at Walnut Avenue and 8th Street, and now the library was outgrowing that facility. 

A preliminary set of plans was submitted to the Library Board by Architects McClelland, McDonald, and Markwith of Los Angeles, but the advent of World War II held up construction until 1949. Margaret Kemp served as temporary librarian until Floyd Jorgensen filled the job in 1937. When he left for the military, Lylyan Mossinger took over and served until 1959. On Friday, July 13, 1951, the Carnegie Library closed its doors after almost 40 years of service. When the doors closed, the library had a total of 42,000 volumes. On Sunday, September 30, 1951, the new library building at 525 Main Street was dedicated by Mayor Vernon Langenbeck. The library was built at a cost of $140,000. Members of the Library Board at the time of the dedication were Pearl M. Jones, president, Berta Tovatt, J. K. McDonald, Edith Vavra, and G. H. Hasson.




After shutting  down in 1951, The Carnegie Library sat dormant for almost 20 years, decaying as time went on. Teenagers used it as a hangout. Bums would crash there. Finally, in the late 1960s, it was demolished, in part by a controlled burn exercise by the Huntington Beach Fire Department.

Thankfully, HB resident Diane Valoff, who lived across the street at 125 8th St., thought to photograph event. She generously shared these images with me this week, and now thanks to her, the last moments of the Carnegie Library, (in color no less!), are preserved forever.

To Ms. Valoff I am quite grateful, as I imagine many people will be after seeing these rare and important images.


Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “HB Photo Flashback: The historic Carnegie Library goes up in flames

  1. Patricia Harpe

    What a shame


  2. Duane Wentworth

    Demolish history so you can build ugly apartment buildings…….some things never change.


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