Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Arch History

The City of Pasadena was incorporated in 1886 and a library was built ASAP. The only fragment that remains of the original building is this arch that still stands at the corner of Raymond and Walnut. According to the plaque inside the arch, Pasadena's "first free public library" was erected in the 1880's. From 1890 to 1927, the library looked like this post card; the arch above is the one facing you at the center of the card in the link. The palm trees to the left in the post card must be the ones that rise above Raymond Avenue today, to the left of where I stood while taking the picture.

Soon the city's needs grew greater than the old building could accommodate, and the Central Library we use today was built in 1927 to replace this one. But it was the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake that rendered the original unsafe. Renovations were deemed too expensive, and the old library was finally razed in 1954. Imagine what it must have looked like after twenty years of waiting for its fate.

The dedication inside the archway says: "This entrance arch, restored in 1955 by the City of Pasadena, at (sic) request of the Pasadena Historical Society, is dedicated to the memory of Pasadena pioneers who in early and difficult days established here a public library as an expression of reverence for literature and art. Their spirit, symbolized in this remaining archway, lives on."

The city's Landmarks page explains why the monument is closed to the public. "Severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and subsequently fenced in."

However, that doesn't explain why this piece of Pasadena's heritage has been allowed to fall apart, brick by brick, in the 15 years since the Northridge quake. I asked our illustrious Public Information Officer, Ann Erdman, if any preservation efforts were underway. She told me it's "listed in our capital projects budget, but listed as unfunded at this time. It would require grant funding and/or private funding to do the restoration."

I understand that. The world is in a financial crisis, and despite Pasadena's reputation as a wealthy city, we're not exempt. Programs for jobs, kids, families--in other words, people--take precedence now.

In the meantime, our little arch falls apart. If my spirit were symbolized in a crumbling ruin I'd be an angry spirit indeed. How do you feel about this old arch? Is it worth preserving, even in these times?

22 comments:

J+P said...

Tidy piece of reporting. I'd say it's worth funding restoration, but if Mr. Arch has waited this long, a few more years probably won't matter—the Salton Sea's recent tantrum notwithstanding. If the Big One comes, we'll have more headaches than mere fallen arches.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I guess the obvious question to ask is, "How Much $$" is needed to preserve this for at least another generation??

I think this would be a perfect project for a great fund raiser, who can also raise hell, to personally crusade for. Calling all great fund raisers!

Laurie said...

Excellent information here, P. I am sad to know that this beautiful part of the region's history is literally crumbling.

Shell Sherree said...

It's really lovely and it seems a shame not to preserve the small remaining piece of history that's left there. Hopefully it will hang in there while some funding can be found. Your feature will help raise awareness of its plight, Petrea. Good for you!

Petrea said...

J+P: good point.

Cafe: another good point. I imagine that amount changes each year as costs change. And I agree--calling all great fundraisers!

Laurie, I had driven by many times and never noticed the "keep out" sign. It shocked me.

I hope so, too, Shell. I was happy to know it's in the city's plans, even though it's not funded now. At least we haven't forgotten.

Susan C said...

An arch is a terrible thing to waste.

(Oops, this isn't Monday, but I couldn't resist.)

altadenahiker said...

Have you read "I remember old pasadena," a book written by one of the first settlers? It's charming, and she lived right about where the library stands today.

J+P said...

I hear she lived in a chapter house.

Margaret said...

I never knew this arch existed. Thanks, Petrea. I do hope the city finds funding to keep it in good repair. Thanks for the info.

Wei said...

I love this arch. I walk to that park from time to time during lunch break just to gaze at it. There is a model of this library in the Central Library's Main Hall. It was made by Pasadena barber Rex Petty from the building's original stone.

A little historical details: the first Pasadena Public Library was founded in 1882, four years before the city was incorporated. This arch belongs to the second library, which was opened on 1890.

Anonymous said...

Just heard the city will spend $63,000 to design a park restroom. Maybe building a fancy restroom is much more important than preserving the arch: http://www.insidesocal.com/pasadenapolitics/

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

As long as the plastic surgery looks natural, I suppose, but we all have to crumble eventually.

Petrea said...

Ah, Susan, your comment is very arch.

I haven't read it, Hiker, but I'd like to. Apparently J+P knows about her. Of course he's spent time across the street having the book thrown at him.

It's shadowed by trees and easy to miss, Margaret. It's in Memorial Park, just west of the band shell.

Hello, Wei! Tune in tomorrow for a follow-up. And thank you for the clarification. The structure pictured in my post was the "first free public library" in Pasadena. But Wei is correct: the first library, founded in 1882, was a private subscription library.

Wow, Anonymous. Interesting link. The $63,000 is just for DESIGNING the bathroom. Imagine what the construction costs will be. Well, I know when I'm in the park and I need a bathroom, the arch isn't of use...
I should have been an arch-itect.

Oh dear Miss H, I don't want to go gently into that good night. However, you're right. As usual.

Katie said...

Such a shame that the original library didn't survive a big earthquake; the postcard shows such an amazing structure. It's too bad that there's no funding to fix this beautiful arch, because it's such a nice connection to Pasadena's past. But you're right, times are tough.

USelaine said...

It's hard for me to see any remnants of our finer cultural history in neglect. Too often the money is diverted for very short-sighted "development" that has a 20 year shelf life before obsolescence. Do not count me as an arch-enemy. (sorry)

Ted Thompson said...

Yes it's worth preservation - and I'm sure the masons who do it would appreciate the work...

Admittedly "public works" whose end product has a more tangible benefit to the public should be preferred, but any project that puts people to work helps the economics and therefore is in the public interest.

If the government is going to throw money about, this is exactly the sort of this they should throw it at.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Hi Dear petrea,
Thank you for your nice comment on my blog. I always think of my friends like you, Elaine, Dina, Babooshka ... and other kind friend that I made on photo daily blog.
Your today's photo shows a kind of fantastic architecture. It reminds me the Rome's Architecture. A half circle Arch!
By the way! I will have the first guest of Mashhad photo daily blog on April 11. This is amazing that a Turkish lady is planed to come to my hometown " Mashhad" for trip! ;)

Janet Swartz said...

Great post! I walk by this arch every day and it is great to now know the full history of it. I love that you did some great investigation into the history and had the postcard image to compare it, too! We are working on an architectural tour of Old Pasadena, with sufficient history and background on the buildings for posting on our Old Pasadena website. Stay tuned!

Petrea said...

I've really enjoyed hearing everyone's opinions on this one, thanks.

Hello to Sarah! Good to hear from you.

Hello also to Janet Swartz. Click on her name and you'll be at the Old Pasadena website, which is very cool. Let me know about that architectural tour, Janet! I'll want to post about it of course.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know about the second part of this building's history? Apparently, an annex was moved from this location and survived 14 years longer than the original building. The children's dept was used as the Lamanda Park branch library from 1927 to 1968, when it was razed.

Petrea Burchard said...

Unknown, I hope someone chimes in, but so far you know more about this than the rest of us!