The Meandering History of Glen Park's Branch Library

A truncated version of this article appeared in (Hi)Stories of Our Neighborhoods in the Glen Park News, Fall 2018.

 

The year 2018 marks the 110th anniversary of the Glen Park Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Established through the advocacy of Glen Park suffragists, the branch stands today as a testament to determined community activism and an indefatigable love for books.

 

In the two years following the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire, as San Franciscans displaced by the catastrophe spread out to find new places to live, Glen Park was quickly evolving from a bucolic rural landscape into a growing residential district. In need of utilities and greater attention from city leaders, a group of 40 civic-minded Glen Park women who were also determined to achieve the right to vote in California established the Glen Park Outdoor Art League in February 1908. Their mission was not only to help beautify the district, but also to establish much needed city services for its residents.

 

In the two years following the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire, as San Franciscans displaced by the catastrophe spread out to find new places to live, Glen Park was quickly evolving from a bucolic rural landscape into a growing residential district. In need of utilities and greater attention from city leaders, in February 1908 a group of 40 civic-minded Glen Park women who were also determined to achieve the right to vote in California established the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, the first of its kind in the "suburban" districts of the City. Their mission was not only to help beautify the district, but also to establish much needed city services for its residents.

These ladies would become Glen Park’s earliest activists. The League’s second president, Ada Parker Stillings, herself an earthquake refugee along with her husband, Calvin, and for whom Stillings Street in Glen Park was likely named, led the Glen Park Outdoor Art League’s effort to establish the first branch of the San Francisco Public Library in Glen Park.

 

Not yet a full-fledged library, Delivery Station F opened in September 1908 at 2975 Diamond Street (the site of today’s Glen Park BART Station) in Mrs. Mary Bridget Mullally Hamilton’s dry goods store. In just 7 years, Mrs. Hamilton herself would move up the ranks of civic leadership, first organizing California Auxiliary of United Spanish War Veterans and by 1915, rising to the presidency of the organization’s National Auxiliary.

 

Later named Glen Park Deposit Station F, the first of several relocations over the next 85 years occurred in June 1914 when it moved to 598 Bosworth Street at Diamond Street. In February 1918, Deposit Station F moved next door to 596 Bosworth Street. Here it remained until January 1927 when 20 years after it's founding, Deposit Station F was promoted to a regular branch of the San Francisco Public Library following a request from the Glen Park Community Club. Located at 700 Bosworth Street (at the northwest corner of Lippard Avenue), the new branch offered reading material for both adults and juveniles.

By 1953, the city was paying $65 per month for the library space to building owners Nickolaos and Madeline Paxinos. The Glen Park branch reached its highest circulation in mid-20th century in May 1939 with a distribution of 5,075 books and periodicals. Yet, in the post-War years of 1946 to 1952, the average monthly circulation decreased to 3,723, and by 1957 to 2,890. With costs for circulation now at $0.31 per book – twice the citywide average – concerns arose that keeping the Glen Park Branch open would become cost-prohibitive.  As a result, the branch was being considered for closure. During this period, the Library’s Bookmobile began making stops at the branch on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 1:00 pm and 2:30 pm.  

 

Yet, despite the threat the branch remained open until the summer of 1964 when the building was slated for demolition (along with many others) for the widening of Bosworth Street from two lanes to four lanes as part of a larger plan to establish freeway corridors throughout the city, including one that would bisect Glen Park and Glen Canyon Park. At this time, the Glen Park branch moved back to the site of today’s BART station, at 2909 Diamond Street at Bosworth. Four years later in July 1968, and despite protests from local residents, the BART District purchased the block for $100,000. This would cause the branch to move again in 1969 when demolition to make way for the new station began – this time to 2842 Diamond Street at Kern Street, today’s Gialina Pizza Restaurant.

 

In 1970, William “Bill” Tietz, a Glen Park native, and his wife, Val, endowed their land at 653 Chenery Street to the San Francisco Public Library. They demolished the old hardware store the family had operated for years and constructed a new building expressly for the housing of a library, where it remained for the next 37 years (today, it is the site of Bird & Beckett Books and Records).

 

Finally, in 2005 and for the first time in the branch’s history, the city moved the Glen Park Branch Library into a city-owned, non-rental property at 2825 Diamond Street at Kern. Today’s building, constructed at a cost of $5.5 million, opened its doors on October 13, 2007 with Governor (then, Mayor) Gavin Newsom cutting the ribbon. It stands today as a monument to the 110-year history of neighborhood book-loving, thanks to Ada Parker Stillings, the ladies of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, and Mary Bridget Mullally Hamilton. The Glen Park Branch has survived its several relocations because of the passion of generations of Glen Park book-lovers for their local branch.

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