Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 15, 2016

Mr. Carnegie in South Pasadena

Longtime readers are familiar with my appreciation of libraries in general, and my enjoyment of seeking out Carnegie Libraries in particular, wherever I travel.

Las Vegas Carnegie Brad Nixon 0817 (640x493)

Oddly, I’ve never reported on any of the Los Angeles area Carnegie Libraries, although there are a number of them. There were once many more, but quite a few have fallen to the wrecking ball.

Because, as I’ve mentioned many times, “Los Angeles” is not really a single place, but a massive agglomeration of cities and towns, you can look at a list of the 85 still-extant Carnegies in California without knowing which ones are in the Los Angeles area unless you know your L.A. geography. They’re located in numerous places that were separate towns and cities in the early 1900s, now subsumed into the megalopolis.

One example is in South Pasadena. South Pasadena is a small city wedged between Pasadena and Los Angeles proper. Just 3.42 square miles, it has about 26,000 inhabitants. The South Pasadena Library sits in a tree-shaded square block.

S Pasadena Carnegie Brad Nixon 3113 (640x480)

In that photo you see neither the original Carnegie structure nor is it in its original location. The city received its grant and built its Carnegie library in 1906 ($10,000 came from the Carnegie Foundation, a fairly typical sum; as was always the case, it was up to the local citizens to provide books and operating expenses: Carnegie built buildings).

Andrew Carnegie himself visited the library during a trip he made during 1910.

The city moved the building to its current parklike setting in 1928, but had already added to the original building in 1916. In 1930, the library was further expanded using designs from the original building’s architect, Norman Foote Marsh and his partners.

S Pasadena Carnegie Brad Nixon 3114 (640x480)

That time they adopted a Mediterranean Revival style, quite different from the original Classical Revival original building.

S Pasadena Carnegie Brad Nixon 3112 (640x480)

Since then, a large addition on the back of the 1930 structure is in yet an entirely different mode, and the original structure is a community meeting room.

IMG_3108Pasadena Carnegie Brad Nixon (640x480)

I count this as another addition to the Carnegies I Have Seen list, although nowhere does one actually see what the city built in 1906, unless there are surviving details inside. We weren’t able to tour the inside of the community room, because they were holding auditions for a local theater production, and I didn’t have time to go through an audition.

I have a lot of work ahead of me if I’m to report on all the L.A. area Carnegies, but I’ll do my best.

Most of the photographs in this post and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017



  1. Admittedly, it is a clear breach of UWS protocol to put my submission here. However, I simply cannot restrain myself.

    I feel compelled to nominate the largest library in the World. Where is it? Britain? France? Italy? Russia? China? No, none of those. It’s here in the U.S.A.

    As a former Virginian and resident of the environs of Washington, D.C., my choice is the Library of Congress. I nominate it not because of the unequalled size of its collections, or because of the outstanding quality of its vast priceless holdings that any visitor is free to see (i.e., Stradivari violins, Gutenberg Bible, Giant Bible of Mainz, rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, to name but a tiny sample of the mega highlights), but because of its spectacular architecture.

    The building is done in what might be loosely called 19th C. “American Renaissance” style. Think Renaissance Italy, but with a 19th C. American twist. It is truly a stunning temple of the arts, and it would be worth a day’s visit just to SLOWLY look at its interior spaces, without even seeing the other treasured collections or looking at any books. To try to describe the murals, paintings, sculptures, mosaics, fountains, and interior decoration in this blog space would be a futile exercise. Better for you to go on the Library’s website and check it out, Or, better yet, pay a visit in person.


    • Merci, La Boheme. You’ve primed the pump for our upcoming National Library Week project. It would be difficult to overstate the far-reaching significance of the LOC. There’ll be more to say about this in April.


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