Friday, May 17, 2024


This is one of the main architectural monuments of the city. Richard J. Riordan Central Library is also a leading public research library in Los Angeles. What is known about the building? Find out more about the history and interesting activities of the central library at Los Angeles Future.

The history of the central library

It was founded back in 1872, however, the library was moved from one rented premises to another one. The library first opened in 1926 in its own building and was already distinguished by its exterior, which should be discussed a little later. 

The plan for the library was created by the city librarian Everett Perry. The emphasis was on the following:

  • the main space is editions, card catalogs
  • multi-tiered stacks
  • reading rooms for the main departments.

In the late 1890s and 1990s, the vast majority of the collection was moved to the part of the new wing named in honor of Tom Bradley. The children’s and adolescent department remained in the same place. It should be added that the three adjacent areas are considered to be a part of a true art and decorative design on a major level.

The only reading room that looks the same as it did in the 1920s is the children’s department, which used to be a reference room earlier.

Exterior of the building

The project of the central library belongs to the New York architect Bertram Goodhue. And it was his last work in life (the man died suddenly in 1924). His colleague, Carleton Winslow, took over the job, finishing construction in 1926.

Goodhue chose an exquisite style of the Spanish Colonial Revival. The central library is a vivid example of the art deco style, a kind of a transitional modernist style. The groups of high and low relief sculptures make the library a unique architectural landmark. They are integrated into the base of the tower and three facades.

Sculptor Lee Lawrie cooperated with Goodhue. Their tandem turned out to be wonderful and impressive and a modern approach was felt.

Salvation of the building

By the 1960s, a once impressive Central Library building had suffered from physical depreciation and overcrowding. The debates continued for more than ten years until the decision was made to save the building.

Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates became the company which was supposed to implement the planned project. In 1986, there were two arsons that complicated the situation. The building had to be closed. The following year, an earthquake awaited the city, which only made matters worse.

In 1993, the renovated building of the Central Library was eventually opened. Visitors enjoyed the new wing of the impressive square named after the mayor Tom Bradley. 

What is impressive to the modern reader?

One can distinguish several elements that fascinate:

  • Murals painted by Julian Garnsey and A. V. Parson. In these drawings, a scene from the novel “Ivanhoe” by Walter Scott is quite skillfully depicted. 
  • An imitation of old wooden beams is noticeable on the ceiling. And this only ignites children’s imagination even more (in the children’s department).
  • The wing named in honor of Tom Bradley consists of eight levels with a glass roof.
  • In the same wing, there are unique art projects ordered as part of many city programs.
  • Visitors adore Maguire Gardens. This is one of the most favorite places in the central part of the city.

The city residents themselves adhere to an interesting opinion that the building of the central library, just like Los Angeles itself, was reborn from the ashes.

The Los Angeles Central Library is open every day. Interesting are free docent-led tours of the building. Every Saturday, visitors have the opportunity to attend excursions of the Maguire Gardens, which surround the library. It is a unique public space, an architectural jewel of the city and a temple of knowledge, which is always a pleasure to be in.

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