WINDOW INTO THE PAST #2: ONCE UPON A BOOK…
Location: 415 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, CA
This exhibit celebrates the vision and persistence of 45 influential people of 1888 San Pedro who met in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church to form the San Pedro Literary Association that would promote “the literary, musical and social culture of its members.” On July 19, 1888, the cornerstone of the first library in San Pedro was laid in a lot on Vinegar Hill, overlooking the Portuguese settlement of Fayal Valley. Over the years, five different libraries and several branches have served the reading needs of the community and of the visiting ships.
Meanwhile, a Welsh immigrant by the name of Edward Thorpe Williams came to the United States in 1902 and opened Williams’ Book Store in 1909. Mr. Williams passed away in 1940, and his daughter, Ethyl Williams-Smith took over the store until she sold it in 1980 to long-time employee Anne Gusha and her son Jerry who operated it until it closed in 2013. It had the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated new book store in the City of Los Angeles.
OVERVIEW OF THE DIFFERENT LIBRARY LOCATIONS -
1905: THE LITERARY ASSOCIATION APPLIES FOR A CARNEGIE FOUNDATION GRANT
Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron and philanthropist, responds to the grant himself, initially questioning the need for a larger building. The Association presses its case and is awarded $10,375 to build a “Carnegie” Library. The location for the new library was on the Public Plaza with an entrance on what is now Harbor Boulevard — in front of the San Pedro Main Post Office. The design included a gilded dome with a temple-front motif, much esteemed at the time. The library came to be called “The Lady of Beacon Street.”
1924: A NEW LIBRARY ON TENTH AND GAFFEY IS ESTABLISHED BUT SOON FACES STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS.
The new two story library in the Spanish style with its tiled roof and wrought iron balconies is, unfortunately, built on filled land over a water course – the Averill arroyo – that runs through San Pedro. During the next twenty years, floors buckle, steps fall away and the second story is rendered inoperable.It was used until 1943, when the building was condemned as unsafe.
1949: A SECOND LIBRARY IS BUILT AT TENTH AND GAFFEY
The new library is erected on the site of the 1924 building. It is a functional, commercial type, with high windows constructed of frame and stucco. San Pedro becomes a regional library and is used by students at the newly built Harbor Junior College which initially had no library of its own. This library serves the public for thirty years.
1983: Friends of the San Pedro Library raised money for the new library to be built at 931 S. Gaffey Street, next to the former library, which was torn down and turned into a parking lot.