People & Community

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Friday, Feb 22 2013 12:03 AM

Inside Story: Baker Branch Library

By Bakersfield Life Magazine

When it was completed in 1915, the local Morning Echo newspaper called the Baker Branch Library -- then the East Bakersfield Library -- "a monument to the civic progress and culture of Bakersfield."

Today, library personnel refer to the branch as the "grand lady of library buildings" in Kern County. The 4,137 square-foot branch is on the National Register of Historic Places, and today serves tens of thousands of people per year.

Related Photos

Nearly 100 years after it was built, the Baker Street branch of the Kern County Library still draws people to its doors.

Librarian Sherry Ward appreciates the beauty of the building, which is almost 100 years old.

Two non-functioning fireplaces are in the main rooms of the Baker Branch Library on Baker Street.

"Working in a building with so many ties to the past, both in the community and the building itself, was amazing to me," said Sherry Gomez, Kern County director of libraries who served as Baker Branch supervisor. "Several generations of people have so many fond memories of using the Baker Branch."

History

* "East Bakersfield Library" on Baker and Oregon streets was approved by city trustees in April 15, 1913.

* $7,000 was offered to A.W. Marion for the land.

* A squabble over money with the contractor delayed its construction. Three buildings had to be moved to make way for the library.

* Construction cost was $26,000. It was financed through a local bond of $28,038.

* The building was finished on July 7, 1915 with a capacity for 30,000 books, and 200 magazines.

* The library opened on July 8, 1915.

* First librarian was Miss Anna Craig.

* "At one time there was a gentlemen's reading room in the basement. A dumbwaiter (elevator) running from the first floor to the basement was used to haul books up and down since the stairs are somewhat narrow." -- Sherry Gomez, Kern County director of libraries.

Baker Branch

* The building was designed by Orville Lee Clark, who also designed dozens of other buildings in Kern County including Fremont School, Kern County Jail and the Noriega residence.

* Design was an Italian Renaissance version of Greek Revival federal villa, with 48-foot wings on the front and back, with grand six Doric columns in its entry.

"It is a sturdy square, symmetrical building appropriate for a Greek Revival Federal public building." -- Richard C. Bailey during a plaque dedication ceremony.

* Survived the 1952 earthquake.

* Listed on National Register of Historic Places in April 1981.

* Closed in 1988 for renovation; reopened four years later with handicap accessibility, interior restoration, and refurbished heating, cooling and electrical systems. It was also nearly restored to its 1915 appearance.

* $1.1 million renovation was financed through grants from California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Kern County and Bakersfield community development department.

Visiting

* Branch Supervisor: Sherry Wade

* Where: 1400 Baker St. in Bakersfield

* Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays only

* Phone: 861-2390

* Website: kerncountylibrary.org

Source: Sherry Gomez, Kern County director of libraries; Sherry Wade, Baker Branch supervisor; Beale Memorial Library "Local History Room" archives; Kern County Facilities Master Plan.

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