Berkeley Public Library, Main Branch
CITY OF BERKELEY LANDMARKdesignated in 1982
James W. Plachek, Architect, 1930
Addition, Ripley/BOORA Architects, 1999
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Berkeley’s free public library system was established in 1895, with branches in west and south Berkeley. The Shattuck family gave land for the construction of the first library on this site, which was made possible by a donation from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It was demolished in 1930 to build a new and larger library designed by Berkeley architect James Plachek. This building is an impressive example of Art Deco or zig zag Moderne style with cement plaster chevrons above the window bays and stylized ram’s head pilaster caps. The sgraffito frieze by Simeon Pelenc depicts Egyptian-styled figures engaged in book production. Citizen support of a 1996 bond issue allowed the building to be renovated, seismically retrofitted, and expanded.
Berkeley Historical Plaque Project
Main Branch Library emblem (2010), photo R. Kehlmann.
Berkeley Public Library, original Carnegie building (c.1929), Berkeley Public Library.
Main Branch reading room (1929), Berkeley Public Library.
Main Reading Room (1998), photo William Porter, Library of Congress.
Lobby looking south (1998), photo William Porter, Library of Congress.
Main Branch Library exterior frieze (2010), photo R. Kehlmann
Main Branch Library reading room (2010), photo R. Kehlmann.
Main Branch Library interior (2010), photo R. Kehlmann.