African American Museum Library at Oakland, Alameda County
East Bay Loop area, San Francisco Bay Area region
African American Museum Library at Oakland
Oakland was in the forefront of early California library organization, with the 1857 Philomathean Society and the 1867 Odd Fellows Library. Its preeminent role continued after Charles S. Greene became city librarian in 1899, the same year in which Oakland received California's second Carnegie grant. In addition to the grant of $50,000, the women of the Ebell Society helped raise $20,000 for site purchase, and the city provided funds for heating, lighting, shelving and furniture. Architects Bliss and Faville designed the building; A.E. Barrett of San Francisco was the contractor. Greene also strongly believed in the importance of good art in interior design; murals by Marion Pope Holden and by Arthur Mathews long hung in the library; some remain and others are in the Oakland Museum. Greene served in a number of statewide library positions, was a trustee of the California State Library for a number of years, and remained Oakland's librarian until 1926. In recognition of his accomplishments, the Oakland Carnegie was formally known as the Charles S. Greene Library Building. It has served as Oakland's main library, as a branch library, and as administrative offices. The building was vacant for several years and was damaged in the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Following renovation and retrofitting, the building reopened in February 2002, as the African American Museum and Library at Oakland. It will serve as the premier reference and research repository on African American history and life on the West Coast.
Oakland's Italian Renaissance old main library, at the southwest corner of 14th and Grove streets within the downtown historic preservation district, is near Civic Center and also the freeway which collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Its classic facade with tall recessed arched windows conveys an effect that is urban and somewhat monumental, appropriate to its later civic use. Its library heritage is recalled in the names of scholars of various disciplines which encircle the building. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.