Southwest Branch, The Seattle Public Library, opens on July 14, 1961.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 9/09/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3946

On July 14, 1961, the Southwest Branch, The Seattle Public Library opens its doors with an official dedication. The new building is located at the corner of 35th Avenue SW and SW Henderson Street to serve that part of West Seattle that has grown dramatically since World War II. Mayor Gordon Clinton gives the dedication speech and introduces community leaders who were instrumental in having the branch built in the neighborhood.

The branch was constructed with part of a $5 million bond issue approved by voters for a new central library. Architect Robert Durham (1912-1998) of Durham Anderson Freed designed an exposed modular steel frame building with aluminum windows that later won several local and national awards. The structure incorporated two old madrona trees already on the site. Total cost of construction and landscaping was $131,449.15. The Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized Durham with its Honor Award for Excellence in Design with language such as:

"Appropriate modest scale and quiet character for a public library in a residential setting. Inviting Entrances skillfully incorporating natural features of the site. Simple open plan which apparently works well. Good color, detail and handling of light to create pleasant interior" (The Seattle Times).

University of Washington Professor of Art Charles W. Smith designed a 15-inch bronze sculpture, Mother Reading to Child, for the main fa├žade. This was the first branch to include a work of art and landscape design as part of the construction.

Katherine Porter was appointed the branch librarian and she served in that post for the next six years. A year later, 1,000 people a day were visiting the library.


Sources:

Bola Architecture and Planning, Landmark Nomination of the Southwest Library for the Seattle Public Library, spiral bound report, September 2000, History Ink Office, Seattle, Washington; "Southwest Library - Misc. Papers," folder, Seattle Public Library Archives; "Southwest Library - Annual Reports," Ibid. The following clippings are found in the Southwest Branch Scrapbook, Southwest Branch, Seattle Public Library: Louis Guzzo, "Eight Win Architectural Awards," The Seattle Times," December 8, 1961; "Citizen's Group To Take Bows At Library Dedication," Ibid. July 9, 1961; "New Library, After One Year, Serves 1,000 District Readers Daily," West Seattle Herald, ca. July 1962.


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