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Richmond Branch Library

Richmond Branch Library

Written by Tim Williams, Branch Manager, and Ruth Vose, Senior Librarian

The Richmond Branch Library, the fourth branch established in the San Francisco Library system, was originally located at 809 Point Lobos Avenue (now Geary Boulevard) and Parker Avenue in 1892. In 1897 the branch relocated to 254 4th Avenue, in back of Blanks Candy Shop, where the smell of cooking chocolate must have sorely tried the concentration of readers!

Before the earthquake and fire of 1906, the district was mostly sand dunes except along Geary Boulevard, lower Clement Street and the rim of the Presidio out toward Seacliff. Wild strawberries grew abundantly and, during the Spanish-American War, a tent city of tropps from the Presidio was pitched against the dunes. Many new arrivals to the city were given lots in the Richmond in payment for services in construction or other trades. For some weeks after the 1906 earthquake and fire, Richmond was one of only two branch libraries in operating condition.

The present Richmond Branch Library, constructed in 1914 at a cost of $48,910, was the first San Francisco branch library to be built with funds from Andrew Carnegie. Designed in an Italianate style by Bliss and Faville (designers of the Geary Theater and the St. Francis Hotel), the sandstone and reinforced concrete building was dedicated on November 8, 1914 with Senator-elect James Phelan and Mayor James Rolph in attendance.

Originally, all library services were on one floor, but as the children's collection grew it was moved downstairs to its present location, probably sometime in the early 1930s. The words "Lecture Hall" over the 10th Avenue entrance to the present Children's Room attest to the room's original function.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, the size of the book collection in the branch remained relatively constant, still filling just the original wall shelves. Since then, however, the diverse and growing reading, listening and viewing demands of the Richmond District residents have resulted in a doubling of bookshelves to accomodate a heavily used and everchanging collection of books, audio tapes, videos and CDs, encompassing several languages.

This article was originally published in Vol. 30, No. 5 of "At the San Francisco Public Library" by the Friends & Foundation of the San Francisco Public Library, May 2001. It is reprinted here with their kind permission.

Image Credit: The San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

Page launched 05/08/01

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