Library Tourism on Route 99

Historic libraries are notable landmarks of past and current civic pride in the Livermore and Central Valleys.

One day, earlier this November, I drove a couple of hundred
miles: to my gallery in Lodi; a museum in Modesto; an art reception in
Turlock.  Driving over the Altamont Pass
on the home stretch I realized that I had driven by, or visited, 4 historic libraries
in one day!  All over 100 years old, the buildings
have new civic uses.

Heading out of Livermore on 4th Street, I pass by
the Carnegie Library, the one I’m most familiar with. It is one of the
thousands of libraries that the Scottish born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie
(1835-1917) funded throughout the English speaking world. William H. Weeks was
the architect and Livermore was one of the 22 Carnegie Libraries he designed in

Set in the middle of a block-sized park between 3rd
and 4th, J and K Streets, the vernacular Baroque building has broad
stairs leading up to the portico, columns and pilasters with Ionic capitals,
and an out-sized, arched window over the wood entry doors. The basement is actually
at street level but because it is partially hidden by the grass and shrub
covered berm, when viewed from 3rd Street, it looks like a temple on
a hill.    The
upper exterior walls are of yellow brick, the foundation level is smooth white,
as are the quoins (corner blocks), pediment (triangle over the door), and the
frame around each window.  There are also
decorative elements such as the endless dentils near the roof line: they look
like a row of teeth that are widely spaced. The large, rectilinear windows on
all 4 sides of the building flood the interior with natural light.

The Livermore Carnegie Library was in use from 1911 until
1966, when the public library moved about 10 blocks away, to the corner of South
Livermore Avenue at Pacific, where it stayed until moving again to its current location
in 2004. The Carnegie building is owned by the City, LARPD rents it out to be operated
and staffed by volunteers of the Livermore Heritage Guild and the Livermore Art

The first stop on my day of driving was Lodi where I
delivered paintings to the Knowlton Gallery. Then I went over to Lodi’s 1907
Carnegie Library because I had driven by it before and wanted to take a closer
look.   It’s Greek Revival with Doric columns, the
walls and pilasters are made of yellow brick, and a huge torchiere on each side
of the portico.  Its basement is
partially below street level. Lodi’s Carnegie is in the midst of a rich and
varied streetscape because it sits in the middle of the block with the War
Memorial Plaza and Romanesque City Hall on one side and on the other, there’s the
Art Deco Masonic Hall and Antebellum-style Women’s Club. In 1979, the Lodi
Library moved into a new building 3 blocks away and the Carnegie building was
renamed the “Carnegie Forum”, a classic name apropos for its new use as Lodi’s
City Council Chambers.

Before leaving for Turlock, my art dealer, Robin Knowlton suggested
I detour and visit the McHenry Museum in Modesto that is just a few blocks from
the Gallo Center of the Arts. I discovered that the building was originally a
1912 library and in 1971, when the library moved into a new building next door,
the McHenry Library became the McHenry Museum. 
The museum displays regional history and art, and is owned by the City
of Modesto and is under direct supervision of the city’s Parks, Recreational
and Neighborhood Department.

 I learned that Modestans
didn’t need to ask Carnegie for money to build a library because they had their
own home-grown philanthropist: Oramil McHenry. 
In his will he provided for a free, public library.  From 1910 to 1912, his widow, Mytrie McHenry oversaw
its construction including the hiring of architect William H. Weeks, the same
architect who designed Livermore’s library! However, the budgets of Weeks’ two projects
were vastly different in scale: Carnegie granted Livermore $10K, McHenry had
provided 3 city lots and $25K.

Without the fiscal constraints typical of a Carnegie project,
Weeks was able to design for the McHenry Library a richly ornamented exterior
in the French, Beaux Artes style. After passing through the green copper doors,
the entry vestibule has a marble floor, ringed with wood columns and
poly-chrome ceiling details.  The two
spacious reading rooms have Arts and Crafts features such as fireplace with
tile surrounds, wood mantles. The Ladies Restroom has tiny, white octagonal floor
tiles and the walls are marble. I read later that there was a basement-level
“Gentleman’s Smoking Lounge”!

After visiting the McHenry Museum, it was time to drive to Turlock.
Their Carnegie Library building was built in 1916 with the familiar yellow
bricks seen at the Livermore and Lodi libraries, but the style is a blend of
early Italian Renaissance influences and topped with a shallow hipped, red-tile
roof.  There are rows of arched windows, and
the bricks are inset by sections so that they create horizontal bands on the exterior
walls. Just like the other Carnegie Libraries, after several generations, a new
facility was needed and built about 10 blocks away in 1968.  For many years the old library building served
as a city-run recreation and community center. 

Now, the original library building has been integrated into
a much larger, and newly built Carnegie Arts Center.  It is the result of the City of Turlock,
Turlock City Arts Commission, and the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation’s
planning and funding.  There art class
rooms, several exhibition venues, and two large meeting/recital rooms. It opened
to the public in 2011 with a museum-caliber exhibition of Ansel Adams’ photographs
and ephemera lent by Adam’s heirs. The current show is “Edgar Degas: The
Private Impressionist”, an extensive collection of Degas drawings, prints, and
photographs, and work by Degas’ friends and peers. This will be on exhibit
until January 13, 2013.

The art reception I attended was for “Lines and Colors:
Celebrating Degas”. I had 3 charcoal drawings in the show. “Pollarded
Mulberries” is one of the drawings and depicts the winter-bare bare mulberry
trees on Mocho Street, off of Holmes. This show will be on exhibit until
February 3, 2013. I enjoyed the evening reception, meeting the other artists
and seeing their art work. Then it was time to get back on Route 99 and drive home!




P.S. Andrew Carnegie’s 
177th birthday will be on November 25th.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Al Phillips November 21, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Thank you for your lovely thoughts


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