The neighborhood of High Point was a temporary housing village built by the United States government to house war-effort factory workers at the advent of World War II. A tiny library facility staffed by West Seattle Branch librarians and housed in a cloakroom soon served High Point residents and nearby neighbors.
After the war ended High Point continued to house a community of families that increased exponentially. In 1961 a marginally larger facility opened at 6338 32nd Avenue SW. The population of the neighborhood rose and fell over the years and its cultural makeup shifted. Recent immigrants learning English as a second language relied heavily on the branch, and it served as a haven for children in a neighborhood challenged by crime and gang activity.
The new High Point Branch was part of a larger effort to improve conditions in High Point and tie the neighborhood to the greater West Seattle community. At 7,200 square feet, the new facility is more than six times larger than the old one. It was designed by Brad Miller of Miller Hayashi Architects and built at a cost of $3,349,056.
With increased square footage came increased comfort: the old facility had only 29 chairs, fiercely coveted during the busy after-school hours. The new facility offers a wide selection of seating sized to match patrons of various ages. Reflecting the diverse community surrounding it, the new High Point Branch has an expanded collection capacity of 27,700 books and materials in a variety of languages. A meeting room, 15 computer terminals, and increased parking are also featured.
The new facility offers a specific area devoted to teenagers. The children’s area is defined by four hanging sculptural “sky canoe” light fixtures and features both toddler and child-sized furniture as well as a wide window seat overlooking a landscaped area. Outside the building’s east entrance is a Scholar’s Tree (Sophora japonica), traditionally planted in Asia to designate learning facilities. Terra cotta relief sculptures depicting legends from different cultures occupy recessed areas in the building’s brick exterior. The sculptures were created by Seattle artist Steve Gardner.