Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 12, 2018

Library at the Beach! Ev’rybody Gone Readin’, U.S.A.

The sprawl of Los Angeles ends on the western side at the curving shoreline of Santa Monica Bay. Along the southern portion of that arc lie the “Beach Cities” of the South Bay: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. A generation ago, when their sandy margins appeared in movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon and The Beach Boys turned the local surfing scene into legend with their songs, they were scruffy towns of bungalows and resort hotels, removed from the lights of downtown and Hollywood.

While things have changed — McMansions replacing the bungalows and parking meters lining streets that were once unpaved — it’s still southern California. Frankie and Annette may have quit the scene, but all three cities still have those beaches with volleyball nets and their picturesque piers, like Redondo’s, here:

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3050 (640x466)

The Beach Boys included both Manhattan and Redondo in their roll call of famous surf spots in “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” but all three communities also have schools, civic centers, fire and police departments, parking meters … and libraries.

In 1885, the City of Redondo Beach assumed management of a reading room the Women’s Christian Temperance Union had established right on the pier’s predecessor, Wharf No. 1, and it became the town’s first library.


The small white building in the very center is the library. Right. On. The. Wharf. Welcome to California, dudes.

In 1909, the growing library relocated to a wing of Redondo City Hall (no longer extant). It continued to expand, and the city began planning for a dedicated library building on a site overlooking the beach, adjacent to Redondo Pier. Voters approved a $50,000 bond issue in 1928, and the new library opened in 1930 in what is now Veteran’s Park.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3306 640

Designed by author, architect and Redondo resident, Lovel Bearse Pemberton (d. 1934), that style is described as Spanish/Dutch Colonial.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3309 640

The structure was placed next to a towering Moreton Bay Fig tree. Both building and tree still stand.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3310 640

The city maintained the library there for 60 years, until the need for earthquake safety retrofitting combined with continued growth of the collection prompted a move to a temporary space in a nearby shopping center in 1991 while a new library was built at a different site. The old structure — reinforced and restored — is now a community center hall, catering to weddings and other events.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3320 640

The interior retains some of its original character, a large, open space of approximately 7,000 square feet.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3314 640

There’s a second floor mezzanine from which you can look through a glassed-in archway to the main floor. Originally, that arch contained stained glass that would’ve been backlighted by a skylight that’s still there, directly overhead.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3316 640

The oak shelving against the walls is part of the original library furnishings.

As I mentioned, the historic library is smack on the edge of the ocean. How’s the view from a library at the beach?

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3318 640

There’s a lower level, too, which today has offices, storage and a commercial kitchen for catering events, bringing the entire space of the relatively small building to a surprisingly large 11,000 square feet.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3326 640

Although L.A. is a place that celebrates the always-new, always-changing scene, it’s also a place that can value the past, and the old library building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It looks out at the beach and pier as we celebrate the SoCal life, not only by waxin’ down our boards … We’re Readin’ U.S.A!

Hit it, boys.

At Haggerty’s and Swami’s,
Pacific Palisades,
San Onofre and Sunset,
Redondo Beach, L. A.,
All over La Jolla,
An’ Waimea Bay
Everybody’s gone readin’
Readin’ U.S.A.
Seeing the Historic Library
The Redondo Beach Historic Library is in Veterans Park at 309 Esplanade, Redondo Beach, California. There is metered parking adjacent, as well as in the parking structure at nearby Redondo Beach Pier. You may find street parking on Esplanade or Catalina Streets to the south, but don’t block a driveway or you’ll be towed. The park is free and open to the public, but the facility is open to the public only for scheduled events or by prior arrangement.


Exterior photographs of the library 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 2018. Special thanks to the staff at The Redondo Beach Historic Library venue for their generous assistance. Many of the historical facts courtesy of City of Redondo Beach Public Library website, retrieved July 11, 2018, including archival photo. An obituary of Lovel Bearse Pemberton retrieved July 11, 2017 from, originally from The Los Angeles Times, February 8, 1934, provided some scant biographical background. “Surfin’ USA,” lyrics © Brian Wilson and Capitol Records (music by Chuck Berry, of course).


  1. Wait, so they moved the library due to earthquake concerns… so it’s ok to let the community use a building that could fall down, but we gotta keep them books safe? Love the prioritisation.
    (I’m figuring that some alterations took place when the books moved out, but I couldn’t resist…)


  2. The history of a town wrapped up in the history of its library. Unique.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m drooling over the idea of a library overlooking the ocean! Hmmm no ocean in Indiana, but perhaps I could convince the library board to relocate us to the shores on Lake Manitou…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a total win. Go for it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Of course, the boys would say something like, “If ev’rybody had an ocean/Like Californi-a/Then ev’rybody’d be readin’/Across the USA/All over Rochester/And up ol’ South Bend Way/Yeah, ev’rybody’d be readin’/Readin’ USA.” I’m here all week, folks.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s certainly not a location for the easily distracted. I say you go either to the library or to the beach, but not both simultaneously, as one is certain to interfere with the other.


    • That’s very funny, thinking of there being protest, “It’s simply not RIGHT to have a library by the beach. They should be more boring.” Just kidding.


  5. Nice pictures, I’ve seen the LA beaches in hundreds of movies. Ok maybe not that many but it is innumerable how many movies I’ve seen with California Beaches.


    • Haven’t we all? One of the most fundamental images people have of California. They’re here waiting … a bit more crowded this time of year. Thanks.


  6. Ha! You got to the parody (well, parodies) ahead of me. Very enjoyable, and now lots of music floating through my head. I couldn’t believe it when I found that Brian Wilson’s on another world tour. Talk about living history.

    The interior of the building’s as beautiful as the exterior. The various arches are my favorite feature. I like that they kept the built-in shelves, too. Do you happen to know what’s on those shelves? Photos? Catalina pottery? Boxed sets of old Beach Boys cassettes?

    The car-library-beach connection’s involved in one of my favorite memories. In 1964, my dad purchased what was known as a 1964-1/2 Mustang. It was royal blue with a white interior, and from time to time he’d let me drive it to the library. Well. Of course I was going to show off — even the mousiest Iowa high school debater can have a little California girl in her.

    I still smile when I hear the song.

    “Well she got her daddy’s car
    And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
    Seems she forgot all about the library
    Like she told her old man now
    And with the radio blasting
    Goes cruising just as fast as she can now
    And she’ll have fun fun fun
    ‘Til her daddy takes the [Mustang] away.”

    And, yes. Daddy did get wise to me, eventually — but he didn’t take away the keys. We just had a little talk.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry to disappoint you, but there are candles in candleholders on the shelves. Catalina pottery is a great idea.
      They do have an old card catalog they acquired — not original — and meeting planners use that for people to search in order to “look up” their table numbers. I liked that. But otherwise rather stripped down in there, library-wise. I’m betting some event planners may fill them out with at least a few props if the event’s elaborate enough.
      What a fantastic Mustang Linda story. You had no choice, though. You had a ‘Stang. Your choices were: Go to the library; Ask permission to cruise (won’t happen); Lie. Any teenager would make the same decision. Kudos to your dad for talking and not putting you in teen jail in your room for the duration, keyless.


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