San Francisco/Presidio, San Francisco County
San Francisco area, San Francisco Bay Area region
Presidio Branch Library
In accordance with the 1901 letter from Andrew Carnegie to Mayor James Phelan, promising $750,000 for a main library and branches, the Carnegie funds were allocated more or less one half for a main library and the remainder for branches. The city paid the difference between the main library's Carnegie share and its $1,152,000 total cost. The branch share was divided among seven libraries. No lots were donated and land costs ranged from a high in densely populated Mission property to a city owned lot in less developed Richmond; in at least one case the neighbors contributed to land costs.
Most of the branches have been enlarged very slightly, all have been retrofitted due to higher standards and varying degrees of earthquake damage, and all are included in San Francisco's "List of Architecturally Significant Buildings." And all of the branches still serve as libraries.
San Francisco's seventh and last Carnegie, the Presidio branch, on Sacramento Street between Lyon and Baker streets, is centered on a generous lot which extends through its city block uphill from Sacramento to Clay. The Sacramento Street entrance, with steps rising in three tiers across the lawn to the doorway, is repeated at Clay with stairs downhill past tall lamp standards and around to the front entrance. Landscaping was directed by John McLaren. The brick Classical Revival building was designed by G. Albert Lansburgh. It appeared that rising costs would exceed the remainder of the Carnegie allotment, but even at $83,228 there was a small balance and the trustees successfully petitioned Bertram to use it for a wrought iron fence to protect the elegant McLaren landscaping. Today the library also houses the city's only Library for the Blind.