Washington Irving Branch
Washington Irving Branch (Original)
Original Washington Irving Branch, May 2008
|Location||1802 South Arlington Avenue, Los Angeles, California|
|Architect||Allison & Allison|
|Architectural style||Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Romanesque Revival-Mediterranean Revival|
|MPS||Los Angeles Branch Library System TR|
|NRHP Reference #||87001010|
|Added to NRHP||May 19, 1987|
|Designated LAHCM||June 27, 1986|
Washington Irving Branch is a branch library of the Los Angeles Public Library, located west of downtown Los Angeles at 4117 West Washington Boulevard, Wilshire. The original building housing the branch (located at 1802 South Arlington Avenue, Arlington Heights, Wilshire, Los Angeles) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but has been vacant and fenced for several years.
The original branch was located at 1802 South Arlington Avenue, Los Angeles, California. The Romanesque Revival-Mediterranean Revival building was built in 1926 and designed by Allison & Allison. The building has been vacant, boarded and fenced for many years. Built in 1926, the Irving Branch had a long, airy room with exposed wood trusses and rafters. At the time of its closure, no major physical changes had been made to the building since its construction, and books remained housed on thick wood shelves.
The Washington Irving Branch was designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in April 1984.
In 1987, the Washington Irving Branch and several other branch libraries in Los Angeles were added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of a thematic group submission. The application noted that the branch libraries had been constructed in a variety of period revival styles to house the initial branch library system of the City of Los Angeles. With respect to the Irving Branch, the application described the building as a one-story Mediterranean building, constructed of hollow tile and finished with brick and stucco. It has a rectangular plan with side-facing gables, a symmetrical front elevation, a tiled roof and a bay window on the east side.
When the Los Angeles Library Commission proposed closing the old Irving Branch and re-locating to a modern facility at a new location, the Los Angeles Times wrote: "It is comforting to know that residents of one Mid-City Los Angeles neighborhood are arguing vehemently with City Hall because of a library. ... The city proposes a more complete and modern library that would be just 13 blocks away, currently the site of a carwash. This makes sense. So would upgrading the historic building that houses the present branch, perhaps as a community center - where that 'neighborhood' feeling it now encourages would continue to be nurtured."
In June 1990, the Los Angeles Library Commission voted to close the old library and re-open the Washington Irving Branch in a different location. The majority of 62 speakers at a public forum on the closure spoke in favor of saving the old branch by renovating and expanding the existing structure. Commission President Martha D. Katsufrankis said at the time: "I'm old and I appreciate old things, but we have to think about serving the whole community for the future."  At the time, City Councilman Nate Holden guaranteed that another "viable funded" use, such as a community center, would be found for the old structure. Area residents, however, were skeptical about promises to preserve the old building, one stating, "I don't believe that for one second. What are they going to turn it into-a police station? A fire station? It's a library, damn it." The library commission agreed in 1991 not to move the Irving branch from its historic Mid-City home of 65 years until a new tenant could be found to take over the building. Residents had feared that the library would be closed and the building left vacant. Library Commissioner Douglas Ring noted at the time: "Everyone knows if you vacate a building and don't have an alternative tenant it is the same as destroying it. That's not what anyone wants."
Despite the promises, a new tenant or use was not found. The new Washington Irving Branch opened in 2000, and the old branch on Arlington Avenue has been vacant, boarded up, and fenced for many years. As of 2008, it was marred with graffiti and the lot covered with weeds and litter.
- List of Registered Historic Places in Los Angeles
- List of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments in South Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Public Library
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- Department of City Planning. "Designated Historic-Cultural Monuments". City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Paul Feldman (1990-03-21). "Extending a Shelf Life Mid-City Library's Patrons Would Rather See Branch Upgraded Than Replaced". Los Angeles Times.
- The Los Angeles Branch Library System TR Multiple Property Submission nomination explains 22 branch libraries but one, the University Branch, appears not to have been listed.
- "The Little Library That Could". Los Angeles Times. 1990-04-27.
- George Ramos (1990-06-01). "Panel Decides to Move Irving Branch Library Culture: Despite protest, facility will be moved from historic location to a site occupied by a carwash. Commissioners call action `emotional and heartwrenching.'". Los Angeles Times.
- John L. Mitchell (1991-06-07). "Tenant Will Be Sought for Library Architecture: The Washington Irving branch won't move until someone can be found to take over the historic building". Los Angeles Times.
- "History of Washington Irving Branch Library", 1936.
- "Branch building questionnaire", Annual report 1939/40, Los Angeles Public Library (Information sheet on construction of original Washington Irving Branch).
- "Branch history, 1959-1969", Los Angeles Public Library, 1969.
- "Program from Groundbreaking Ceremony for new Washington Irving Branch", 1997.
- "Library board OKs second site for branch amid public outcry", John D. Wagner, Wave Newspapers, June 6, 1990.
- "Washington Irving Branch celebrates 50th anniversary", Mary D. Brooks, Los Angeles Public Library, 1977.