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?