Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - libraries

Designers: Benton/Park/Candreva Architects (firm); Wally Benton (architect); Clarence H. Russell (architect)

Dates: constructed 1916

1 story

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4591 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA 90029

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The Cahuenga Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library had a familiar Carnegie library form, rectangular in form, elevated on high foundations, and bi-laterally symmetrical. Styles could vary, but floorplans needed to conform to standards. In the 1900s and 1910s, the Carnegie Corporation of New York had very specific requirements that each community needed to meet to obtain funding. By this time, 1916, Carnegie's philanthropic organization had published a book of "suggested" plans for communities of various sizes to follow. The charity expected that the local organizers pay for a land parcel, and that Carnegie would match funds raised on the local level. Despite the restrictions,

Carnegie's generosity helped millions of Americans, particularly to recent immigrants. The public library provided the information many used to expand perspectives, enhance their skills and improve their economic positions. Often "Americanization" courses would be held for newcomers and young people in the basement auditoria and meeting rooms of neighborhood Carnegie libraries. Los Angeles Public Library City Librarian, Everett R. Perry, wrote in the 30th Annual Report of the Los Angeles Public LIbrary, "Americanization has been one of the notable library activities, in which the Juvenile Department has played an important part. Special efforts have been made to reach through the night schools the adult foreigners who are learning to read English. While, of course, only a small percentage of such adults attend night school, that percentage represents those of more ambition and intelligence, able to respond to what the library has to offer. Americanization is a part of patriotic education, and patriotic education has been one of the guiding ideals in the library's work with children and young people." (See Everett R. Perry, "Report of the Librarian," Los Angeles Public Library Thirtieth Annual Report, 1917-1918, p. 22-23.) In large part, Americanization efforts focused on English language training for immigrants, but many other homogenizing cultural ideas were also imparted in these classes.

Building History

The architect Clarence H. Russell (1874–1942) designed the Cahuenga Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), that opened on 12/04/1916. Named for the Cahuenga Tribe of American Indians who resided in the vicinty, this was the last branch library built with $210,000 obtained from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The list also included, in 1918, the Arroyo Seco, Boyle Heights, Hollywood, North East, San Pedro, Vermont Square, and Vernon Branches. Expenses for the construction of the branch came to $33,978. According to Cahuenga Branch Librarian, Marianne Adler in 1976: "The location on Santa Monica and Madison, was selected by the Library Board under the chairmanship of Mr. Orra E. Monette, because it was less expensive that the corner of Santa Monica and Vermont. Eventually, the site was acquired through assessment proceedings, and a substantial and dignified brick-faced building was constructed in Italian Renaissance style." (See Marianne Adler, "History of the Cahuenga Branch Library, 1916-1976," accessed 04/28/2015.) This Italian Renaissance Style was seen by architects as very appropriate to Southern CA's Mediterranean-like climate.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York had strong floorplan preferences, and the Cahuenga Branch was an example of a 'butterfly" plan typical of the Carnegie Libraries. A central librarian could watch over activity in all sections of the facility, particularly the adult reading room and children's room, located on either side of the front entrance. The 8.478-square-foot, two-floor facility also contained a book stack chamber and a basement auditorium for public events.

The construction of the Hollywood Freeway in 1947-1949 caused significant disruptions to the neighborhood around the Cahuenga Branch, altering the area indelibly. The Cahuenga Branch Librarian Anna-Marie Hook noted c. 1948: "A small slum area may be cleared away by the new Freeway." (See Anna-Marie Hook, "History of the Cahuenga Branch Library, 1936-1949," p. 5, accessed 04/29/2015.) Road construction necessitated the destruction of many single-family houses, apartments and mass relocations. It also introduced a broad divide, separating neighborhoods on either side of the highway. Hook wrote later in 08/1949: "Each year since 1945 the circulation has been steadily rising. The severe drop in May 1949 is attributable to the effects of the Freeway on the branch." (See Hook, "History of the Cahuenga Branch Library, 1936-1949," p. 1,) She continued, "The Freeway cutting through Cahuenga's area has become a reality in 1949. It connects the Valley through Hollywood with downtown Los Angeles causing repercussions in the use of the branch. The manager of Jerry's market, a supermarket about eight blocks away, has felt the impact and estimates that 900 customers have moved away due to the Freeway. In one building alone forty-eight families had to move when the city condemned the land." (See Hook, "History of the Cahuenga Branch Library, 1936-1949," p. 5,)

Building Notes

In 1925, the Cahuenga Branch maintained a collection of 11,406 books, and circulated 160,153 during the year. By 1933, in the midst of the Depression, circulation expanded to 375,317. (See Marianne Adler, "History of the Cahuenga Branch Library, 1916-1976," accessed 04/28/2015.)


The Cahuenga Branch of LAPL underwent an expansion and upgrade beginning in 1994-1995. A groundbreaking for the renovation happened on 03/07/1994. The library underwent seismic reinforcement for defiiciencies found in 1990 that forced the closure of the library at that time. An addition of 1,400 square feet was made and a parking lot for 25 cars included. Alterations to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabiliites Act (ADA) also occurred. Improvements in mechanical and communications systems were included and paid for, in part, through a $3 million grant from the Microsoft Corporation to the LAPL. LIbrary administrators also drew on funds accumulated from the a Federal Housing and Community Development Block Grant, the City of Los Angeles's Capital Improvement Program, and the 1989 passage of Propostion #1, a bond issue that provided funding for the renovation of the Cahuenga Branch as well as the Robertson, Echo Park, Van Nuys, Watts, and Memorial Branches. Wally Benton, of the Los Angeles firm of Benton/Park/Candreva Architects supervised the renovation work.

Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument (1986-10-24): 314

National Register of Historic Places (1987-05-19): 87001006 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 19582