The Seattle Public Library's first branch officially opens in Fremont on February 2, 1903.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 9/30/2002
  • Essay 3968
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On February 2, 1903, The Seattle Public Library officially opens its first branch, in converted apartments in Fremont. The collection is made up of 200 books purchased for the new branch added to books already acquired by the Fremont Reading Room Association.

A Reading Farmer

In 1894, farmer Erastus Witter wanted to organize a library for Fremont. He contacted 10 prominent citizens and convinced each of them to pledge $5 a year toward acquiring books and space. It took until 1901 for Witter to open a free reading room on the second floor of the Fremont Drug Co. operated by Sidney S. Elder at 3401 Fremont Avenue. The reading room was open every three days for checkout and return.

Sidney Elder became a member of The Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees and through his efforts, the board agreed to open a branch in Fremont. Two hundred books, "an assortment of standard fiction and more solid reading," (P-I) were ordered from Eastern publishers and they arrived at the reading room on September 29, 1902. The library board rented second-floor apartments at 3424½ Fremont Avenue on the southeast corner of Fremont Avenue and Blewett Street (later N 35th Street). The hallway was used as a reading room and the other rooms were equipped with shelves and tables. Witter was appointed librarian.


The new branch was open three days a week and closed at 4:00 p.m. In 1905, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, "This is, according to many of the residents, much too short a time, especially for the working classes, who would be glad to use the rooms if the hours were longer."

In 1912, the branch moved to larger quarters in a ground-floor storefront across the street at 3425 Fremont Avenue. In 1921, a branch was built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919).


"Open Branch Library," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 3, 1903, p. 14; "Public Library Branch," Ibid., February 2, 1903, p. 6; "Receives 200 Volumes, Ibid., September 30, 1902, p. 6; "Changes in Branch Library at Fremont," Ibid., January 3, 1905, p. 8; "Fremont Wants Library Building," Ibid., December 22, 1912, Sec. 2, p. 4; "Fremont Works for Carnegie Library," Ibid., January 11, 1919, p. 4; "2 Libraries, Pool and Center To Be Closed for Renovation," The Seattle Times, December 7, 1987, p. B-4; "Branch Library," The Seattle Times, typewritten transcript, Fremont Library -- Landmark Designation Papers, folder, Seattle Public Library Archives; "Minutes of the Seattle Public Library Board Meetings," Vol. 3, p. 341, 394, bound volume, Ibid.; "Fremont Library -- History," folder, Ibid.; "Fremont Branch," folder, Ibid.; "General History," folder, Ibid.; "Seattle Public Library -- Chronology," typescript, Fremont Branch Library scrapbook, Fremont Branch, Seattle Public Library.

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