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.

IMG_3113 S Pasadena Carnegie Brad Nixon

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

IMG_3112 S Pasadena Carnegie Brad Nixon

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

Still, 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.

© Brad Nixon 2016

Announcing the Under Western Skies National Library Week Participation Event

The American Library Association will hold its annual National Library Week observances from April 10-16, 2016. Under Western Skies believes in public libraries as a force for good in the universe, and I usually devote that week to recognizing libraries, librarians, and the citizens who support them, everywhere.

This year I invite you to participate. Contribute a description of your favorite library, a library that means a lot to you now, or perhaps one that is dear in memory as the place you got your first library card or fell in love with books and reading.

I’d like to hear not just from U.S. residents, but from all of you around the world. Send a photo, if possible, too, along with a brief description of what the library signifies to you, the community and the citizens who use it. This is your opportunity to acknowledge the important role libraries and librarians play in our lives.

These need not be public libraries, but may include university libraries or privately-operated ones your fellow readers may find interesting.

I’ll compile all the entries and post them here during National Library Week. I hope that the response will be good enough to require several posts to contain them all.

Feel free to encourage friends to participate, too.

Please submit your contributions to

Venture forth — whatever the weather — and get those photos, or have someone in your home town send you a picture. Include some facts and interesting history about when the library was founded, and so forth. What’s the state of your library: Thriving? Hanging on? Threatened? Demolished?

Don’t forget to provide your name and what town or city the library’s in! The library website URL is a welcome bit of information. Don’t forget to let the library know that they’re going to appear.

I look forward to your additions to this project. I’ll post weekly reminders, but February and March will fly, so don’t delay.

© 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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