Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America
California's Non-Carnegie Libraries

Los Angeles will have its own page.


Alhambra, CA library

Built 1906: replaced in 1968 from damage that I suspect was caused by an earthquake.

Curt Teich 'C.T. American Art' card, mailed in 1927.

Bakersfield (Beale Memorial Library)

Beale Memorial Library (L) The card was mailed in 1906, with the comment to Cora, 'Just to let you know I am still with the living.'
(R) Edward H. Mitchell card, mailed in 1911.
Beale Memorial Library

Built in 1900 in memory of General Edward Fitzgerald Beale. The library building (not the clock tower) was destroyed in a 1952 earthquake, and not replaced until 1957.

Kern County Free Library

Kern Co. Free Library

This is the replacement 1957 library, in turn replaced in 1988. At the time the card was printed--sometime between 1957 and 1961--its circulation lay between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 books per year, according to the publisher.

In the background is a bookdrop, and a lot of school buses.


2nd Berkeley library

Replaced the Carnegie building in 1929. Deco as all get out.

Pacific Novelty postcard. The blue sky was turned up to 11.

Boulder Creek

Boulder Creek Public Library

Now part of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries.
This building was in use from 1951 to 1985: a former office for a lumber company which was moved to the location pictured, its fate is unknown.
The Library itself has had issues. It was established in 1906, but the town disincorporated in 1915. The county had to establish a branch in 1917. The collection bounced around for many years until the 1985 building was provided.

The Dexter Press product was printed for Don Mar Sales. Its date in uncertain, but the car in the background dates from the 1940s.

Carmel by the Sea (Harrison Memorial Library)

Harrison Memorial Library

Built in 1928. Privately funded since 1992.
Gee, it's only open 42 hours per week. Why might that be?

Seriously underexposed photo post card.


Marysville, CA library (L) This Cardinell-Vincent card is captioned 'On the Road of a Thousand Wonders.' Apparently this refers to the Southern Pacific Railroad.
(R) An early Edward H. Mitchell card, mailed in 1909.
Marysville, CA library
Marysville, CA library Even though the card is sepia toned, this Edward H. Mitchell card is newer than the card above.

Replaced by the Yuba County Library in 1977. Because the original donor, John Q. Packard, had wanted the property and library to be used in perpetuity, per Waymarking, it escaped demolition.

Modesto (McHenry Public Library)

McHenry Public Library McHenry Public Library McHenry Public Library
Photo postcard
from the '20s or '30s.
Photo postcard
from the '30s or '40s.
H.S. Crocker Co. card, mailed in 1964.
Isn't it great? The style is similar to many motel postcards of the late 1950s.

100 years old in 2012.


City Hall and Public Library, Oceanside, CA

The Library has gone from sharing the city hall, to taking over the Mission style building, to two more branches plus a bookmobile.

Photo postcard mailed in 1947, but probably significantly older.

Palm Springs (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)

Welwood Murray Memorial Library

Still in use, but as a private library, run by volunteers.

1945 linen finish card by Curt Teich.


Old Pasadena library with cacti Old Pasadena library Old Pasadena library Old Pasadena library
Private mailing card, sent 1902.
Amazing vignette of a cactus garden.
1903 Detroit Publishing card,
mailed in 1910.
Acmegraph card,
mailed in 1913.
Closer view of the Romanesque library building.

Information on the older building from Waymarking.

1890 - 1927, served as a library; 1927 - 1933 as Patriotic Hall; demolished in 1954. Like so many other California libraries, an earthquake--in this case, the 1933 Long Beach earthquake--sealed its fate.

Pasadena, CA library Pasadena, CA library Pasadena, CA library Pasadena, CA library
Mashower post card,
mailed in 1928.
Tichnor Art Card, mailed in 1938,
showing the Sierra Madres
in the background.
Unattributed photo postcard. MacFarlane-White Photo card, date unknown.

The 1927 building, designed by Myron Hunt, remains in use today. It has undergone a renovation, year unknown, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, per the library's web site.


Ramona, CA Town Hall and Library


There is no free-standing Ramona public library: San Diego County has taken over service.

Red Bluff (Kraft Memorial Public Library)

Kraft Memorial Public Library (L) Unknown publisher, perhaps Edward H. Mitchell.
(R) Photo card shows a dirt street.
Kraft Memorial Public Library

Its land was donated in 1908 by Herbert Kraft's widow for the library. Notably, she stipulated that there 'shall be no restrictions of any kind, based on racial lines, color lines, or religion.'
Pretty darn progressive.

Merged with the Tehama County Library in 1959. In 1962, the combined library moved to a new building. It was supposed to get a new building in 1986. Unfortunately, it landed in a Safeway grocery store.

Today the historic building holds an interior design house.

Redlands (A.K. Smiley Public Library)

A.K. Smiley library (L) Edward H. Mitchell card, mailed in 1912.
(C) Chrome card.
(R) Detroit Publishing card.
A.K. Smiley library A.K. Smiley library

Another California library in desperate financial straits.

Built in 1894; opened in 1898. Per the library site, the children's library opened in 1920. It reached the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, but California took until 1990 to designate it as a State Historic Landmark.
I can't even begin to guess its architectural style: there are Gothic elements, including a rose window, on one end. I see Italianate, Moorish, and Romanesque traces also. The Library's page about the Smiley Brothers calls the architecture 'Moorish.'
Before the 1990 addition, it was 33,000 square feet, which seems low; the expansion brought it to 43,000 square feet.

San Diego

New San Diego Library

Replaced the Carnegie building in 1954. According to the back of the postcard:

This new building of modern architecture recently completed at a cost of $2,000,000 is located in the heart of Downtown San Diego. The San Diego Library & its 32 branch libraries rank fifth in per capita circulation in the United States.

It's interesting how old many of the cars are in this photograph. Two, near the right side, must date from the 1930s.

San Jose

Night view of San Diego library

Built, 1965-1970.
Rededicated as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Main Library in 1990. Replaced after a 1997 joint venture between San Jose Public Library and SJSU.

The card bears a pen date of 1973. Its photo was taken by Tom Tracy, and it's a Mike Roberts card.

Santa Paula (Dean Hoobs Blanchard Memorial Library)

Blanchard Memorial Library

Replaced. Now the Blanchard Community Library. Unknown if this building is still standing.

Greek Ionic architecture shown on a Panama-California Exhibition card by J.R. Brakey.

Sawtelle National Soldier's Home (Markham Hall)

Welwood Murray Memorial Library

Sawtelle is part of West Los Angeles today.

Built in 1906, Markham Hall housed a library that might have been open for public use, if the postcard caption is correct.
The tinted German card was mailed in 1909.


Ventura City Hall and Public Library (L) The Albertype card dates from 1901-1907.
(R) Per correspondent Dave Combe, partially quoted:
This card features the 1921 E. P. Foster Library, which still exists and is open to the public, at 651 East Main in downtown Ventura. In 1959, an addition was fronted onto that library. The old building is visible at the rear of the current library. It serves as a storage space for back periodicals, the library history collection, and is used by the Friends of the Library to store and process donations.
The Helen Power Wright Library, on the east side of the city of Ventura, closed in 2009.
Ventura Public Library

The City of Ventura's history site is a tad murky, but the library was founded in 1873. Earlier California architecture can be hard to date, but this just might be the first location.


Whittier, CA public library

This building replaced the Carnegie building, which was demolished in 1959.
A branch was added in 1968.

The Columbia Wholesale Supply postcard shows an impressive range of American automobiles parked in front of a Mid-Century Modern library. The little pink job is a Crosley sedan.