The Downtown Los Angeles Public Library had very humble beginnings as a few donated books and old newspapers in a donated quarters over a saloon in 1844 when Los Angeles had fewer than 1500 residents. The Library finally took root under the direction of Tessa Kelso, the fiesty head librarian from 1889 to 1895 who’s tenacious leadership grew the library collection 7 times and library card holders from 132 to over 20,000 during her 6 year tenure. It wasn’t until 1921 with the floaing of a special bond issue and a boisterous political campaign that a permanent home was finally established. The land anchoring the Library’s current location – the previous home of the State Normal School, the forerunner of UCLA – was purchased for $1. Bertrand Grosvenor Goodhue, who’s previous archetectural commissions included the Nebraska State Capital, was hired as Architect. Goodhue died two years prior to completion, in 1926, of the original structure.
The Library survived a disasterous arson caused fire in 1986 that resulted in the destruction of over 400,000 volumes by fire, water damage to 700,000 books and smoke damage to the balance. For a short time thereafter, there was consideration of moving the facility to another location but proponents of restoring the building won out and a totally remodeled building encorporating a 6 story addition was reopened in October 1993.
Today, the Los Angeles Public Library contains over 6 million books, audio books, periodicals, DVD’s and CD’s, and over 80,000 photographs with emphasis on California History.
Los Angeles Public Library
630 West 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071