Magnolia Station, The Seattle Public Library, opens on April 1, 1943.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 7/03/2002
  • Essay 3875
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On April 1, 1943, The Seattle Public Library opens Magnolia Manor Station at 3414 W McGraw Street to serve the readers of Magnolia Bluff. Some 3,200 books and a librarian are made available three days a week in commercial space rented, renovated, and furnished by volunteers from the Magnolia Community Club.

We Want Books

Beginning in 1932, members of the Magnolia Bluff Community Council began lobbying the Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees for establishment of a neighborhood branch library. Readers had to journey to Ballard or Queen Anne (there was no direct public transportation) or to downtown to check out books or conduct research. A bookmobile did serve the area, but that service was cut in 1932 during the Great Depression. The Community Club started a Library Fund with cans to collect spare change at all the local stores.

With the onset of World War II, readers had to use rationed gasoline to drive to Ballard or Queen Anne. The Magnolia Community Council formed a library committee, which resumed the campaign for a branch. In January 1943, the library board agreed to supply books and librarians if the community found a location. The Library Fund had grown to $1,500 and the Community Club chipped in another $300.

Led by Del McCracken, Dorothy Phillips, and Alice Maxwell, the committee found a vacant tavern at 3200-3202 W McGraw Street and rented it for $25 a month. Volunteers cleaned out garbage, repaired windows, knocked out a wall to an old real estate office next door, painted the walls light blue, and acquired tables and chairs and a heating stove. The Seattle Art Museum loaned pieces for the walls.

The main library provided 3,200 books, including 800 children's titles, and a librarian on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Ruth Norris and Eileen Cornwell were the first to staff Magnolia Manor Station.

Community Management

The branch was truly a community activity. Patrons left returned books at the neighboring service station, dry cleaners, or bakery. The businesses also took phone messages for the staff. In 1945, one staff member reported, "The atmosphere is different from any other branch. The whole community has a pioneer spirit, like an old country store where everyone gathers to meet their friends" ("Our Proud Library"). The absence of a permanent branch librarian and the presence of an active library committee generated a management issue that one staff member described as "a pie with too many fingers in it" ("Our Proud Library" draft).

In January 1945, the library took over the lease on the old tavern and started to look for better space. On June 14, 1946, the branch moved to newly constructed space at 3414-3416 W McGraw Street.


"Landmark Nomination of the Magnolia Library for The Seattle Public Library," BOLA Architecture + Planning, 320 Terry Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109, November 2000, 7-9; "Our Proud Library," draft manuscript on foolscap, undated (ca. 1974), Archives of Magnolia Branch, Seattle Public Library.

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