“Grow up, Los Angeles! Own your own public library and take your place with progressive cities!” – the slogan of a 1921 bond issue. In 1926 the current library was dedicated and opened it’s doors to the fortunate people of Los Angeles.
Before I stepped into this unique and awe inspiring building I knew nothing about it’s history. From the first few glances, of this majestic yet funky building I just knew it had a story to tell. Started by strong interesting women on a mission, to surviving fires started by arson, this library is a survivor. Built on Normal Hill former site of the State Normal School, the forerunner of UCLA, this institution is far from “normal”, it’s extraordinary.
As a kid growing up in small town Minnesota, my favorite place to beat the heat, besides our water filled swimming quarry outside of town was our very old historic library. I would spend our in the basement which housed the children’s books and sat on the cool tiled floor between the aisles of musty smelling books. It was a treasure chest of insights into life and possibilities outside of the library basement.
So here starts my hot summer day adventure in Downtown LA. My friend Britta and I ventured out and easily found parking at the 524 S. Flower Street ramp below the library. If you have a Central Library card you get a small discount on parking, validate your ticket at the information desk.
This exhibit was one of the draws for me to finally get to the library. The history of dining in LA.
As you walk into the old stately building the blast of cold air conditioning lets you know you’re in the right place on a hot summer’s day. The modern ceiling mural juxtaposed with the antique light fixture assures you’re in for a eclectic ride in this interesting hall of books, art and media.
A friendly librarian is standing at the entrance ready to answer all of your questions and give you information on all of the state of the art technology the library offers. We started off down this hall, looking up, down and all around to take in the architecture and LA history displays that surrounded us.
Look up, you see this antique light fixture, but keep going down the hall to the huge collections of books you come to the very modern atrium. Wait! This is nothing I expected from the exterior of the building.
Get a library card! You have access to any book, book on “tape”, movies streaming on-line, books on-line, so much information and entertainment at your disposal for free.
Then it happened. We turned around and ventured down another long hall and this is what we found. A gorgeous rotunda fitting with the architecture of the outside of the building, which seems to be a mash up of grand styles, not the misson or Spainish style you’d like of when you think of old Los Angeles.
It is much more grand than these pictures portray. What a gem in the middle of this busy city. You’ll be so glad if you take the time to go explore these halls. Better yet, take your kids, grand kids, nieces and nephews.
A time before computers.
The children’s literature room is wonderful. The helpful librarian at the desk will happily help you find anything you need. I was on the lookout for our very favorite children’s book “Seven Silly Eaters” the illustrator Marla Frazee is outstanding. She is a local woman from Pasadena and is incredibly gifted. Her detailed whimsical illustrations can tell the story even without words. Every one of her books are fabulous.
I read this book over and over again as a kid.
I asked the librarian where we could find the “Live and Dine in LA” display. She said “go out this door toward the statue and turn left, when you see the turquoise wallpaper with the lemons, you’re there” This was my sign that today was one of the best days. Anyone who knows me well, knows that this combination, lemons, the color turquoise, restaurants, menus and LA are my jam.
The history of food in LA depicted on murals and hands on reprinted menus from classic restaurants.
After you take in all of the beauty inside the library building there a is a beautiful park setting on the side of the library adjacent to a picturesque cafe.
The “light of learning torch”. You’ll learn so much about Los Angeles if you visit the Central Library. It’s truly layered with interesting stories and beauty. A real layer of LA.