San Luis Obispo, Sun Luis Obispo County
Central Coast area, Central Coast region
San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum
The Romanesque Carnegie building, on the northwest corner of Monterey and North Broad streets, contrasts strikingly with its neighbor across Broad Street, the San Luis Obispo Mission. Local materials dramatically emphasize its Romanesque qualities: red brick with Los Berros Yellow Sandstone for arch, quoin and window detailing accented by short polished dark gray columns, and Bishop's Peak Granite for the foundation. Both Mission and Museum face on San Luis Obispo Creek, restoration of which has revitalized its downtown area.
The San Luis Obispo Carnegie is one of few in California designed in the style reminiscent of large libraries, churches and train stations of the 1870's and 1880's in the northeast. Ruins of dormitories from the nearby Mission have been found on the library site. San Luis Obispo had several early but short lived libraries until the 1882 effort of the Tribune editor which was transferred to the city in 1897. A Carnegie grant of $10,000 was received in 1903. Designed by William H. Weeks, it represented a transition between gaslight and electric lighting; an original Diamond H brand rotary electrical switch has been discovered by museum staff. The portico was extended in 1910, apparently by Weeks. When the library moved to a new building in 1955, the County Historical Society established a museum in the Carnegie.