Friday, December 13, 2019


Above: this postcard image was taken between the years: 1904 and 1915. It shows the Golden Eagle hotel in the distance, the Lorenz hotel, the quartz water fountain and the Carnegie Library. From the collection of Jeremy Tuggle.

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union founded the first Redding Library in 1896, and immediately organized a library board of directors to govern the library’s daily operations. In 1900, the Redding library board passed a vote to become a free library. Two years later, local media outlets assured their readers that Redding’s future would include a brand-new library building due to the growing volumes of publications they were collecting.

The July 29, 1902, edition of the San Francisco Call newspaper told their readers that the new Redding library would be built “at the corner of California and Yuba Streets and across from the four-story Hotel Lorenz, just being finished.” However, an official site wasn’t chosen yet. Due to its growth of publications it made Redding Library director, William F. Aram apply to the Carnegie Library Institute which was owned by industrialist Andrew Carnegie of New York for the purpose of obtaining one of their popular library buildings for the City of Redding in early 1903. By February of that year, it was Aram who was negotiating with the Carnegie Library Institute which made it possible for Redding to get a new state-of-the art-library, for $10,000.00. However, Redding would have to pledge one thousand dollars per year and find a suitable site for the building.

During the next month the application for the library was granted and the City of Redding would have to comply with Andrew Carnegie’s terms. The Redding library board created a petition for residents to sign. More than enough signatures were collected to make the City Trustees pass the petition and start working with Carnegie’s terms. While Redding wanted the Carnegie’s donation the process garnered a lot of attention in the media. By March 30, 1903, the Free Press newspaper of Redding heralded the following account:

Offer Site For Carnegie Library

Mr. and Mrs. Sam Hill Place Three Lots At Trustees Disposal.
All are on North California Street and have water and sewer connection. - Library Trustees Prepared To Receive Offers.

Mr. and Mrs. Sam Hill are the first public-spirited citizens to come forward and offer the Redding Library trustees a site a site for the new $10,000 Carnegie free public library building. One of the conditions imposed by Mr. Carnegie is that a suitable site be selected and procured by the city. Mr. and Mrs. Hill have placed three sites at the disposal of the trustees and in case either is selected, they will donate the land to the city for the library purposes. One of the lots is 54x140 feet on the east side of California Street between Shasta and North Streets. The other is 50x140 on the east side of California Street between North and Trinity Streets, and the third is a lot 50x140 feet on the west side of California Street, between North and Trinity Streets. All of these lots have newer sewer connections and water piped on the ground. Mr. Hill is anxious for Redding to take advantage of the library offer of Mr. Carnegie, and is willing to do his share, and more, toward securing the library building, which will be a great improvement to the city and something to which the citizens can point with pride. The library trustees are now ready to receive other offers. When all are on hand the trustees will meet and select the most advisable.” (SIC)

Four months later, an architect by the name of G.A. Wright from San Francisco started clout chasing when he made statements to the press that he was the reason why Carnegie donated the money for Redding to obtain its new library. He also claimed to be the person who was going to build the future library building for Redding. The library board immediately responded to prove he was a phony. While people were making claims in various places the local media wanted to assure their readers that there were no hitches involved within the planning for the new library while the City Trustees and the library board were working together on the project, that July.

On August 12, 1903 an official contract was let to architect Mathew W. Herron of Redding to design a Classical Revival style type of building. The construction contract was awarded to the Holt & Gregg Company of Anderson for the sum of $9,350. The library board and the City Trustees did not accept the land offers of Mr. and Mrs. Hill; however, they did pick an official location on the west side of the Lorenz hotel and the railroad tracks on Yuba Street in downtown Redding.

Then on, December 18, 1903, the Women’s Improvement Club awarded the plumbing contracts of the new building to Witter & Norton, as the construction waned. By December 29, 1903, the brand-new Carnegie Library building was completed. According to one excerpt of on article it stated the following: “The interior finishing of the building is now complete. The bookshelves, tables, file racks and blinds have been put in and the interior woodwork polished. The grounds in front of the building have been leveled, filled and laid out for parking. Crushed rock walls have been laid and hydrants placed. This work was done under the supervision of the Women’s Improvement Club.

People kept moving various publications into the new library up to January 1, 1904. Local citizens were proud of their new Christmas gift, the Redding Carnegie Library, which opened to the public that year. In 1904 the library board consisted of the following people: E.L. Bailey, president; William F. Aram, financial secretary; Emma (Gregory) Groves, Mrs. F.M. Brown, director; Mary E. (Allen) Reid, director; and Mrs. W.F. Aram, secretary and librarian.

During November of 1904, the Women’s Improvement Club of Redding received a set of plans designed by Elizabeth (Litsch) Etter, a daughter of Shasta County pioneers Frank Litsch and Caroline (Shuere) Litsch, regarding a new park on the Carnegie Library grounds. The group unanimously accepted the plans and went ahead to develop the park that month. The club decided to name it Library Park. It was designed after a park that Elizabeth and her husband Allen saw on a trip to Alameda, California that was about the same size. The Women’s Improvement Club oversaw the parks landscape.

In 1910, the Carnegie Library Institute added new publications to the Redding library, and not just a small donation of books either, but 2,787 volumes which totaled over $3,000. The library had 648 members at that time while the Redding library continued to prosper. Two years later, librarian Jennie H. Taylor reported a library report to the Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, for the month of February 1912, which stated the following facts:

Number of visitors during the month, 1,979; books loaned, 1,078, books purchased, 31; discarded 1, new members, 8; total number of members to date, 873; books in library to date, 2,685.

The library board continued purchasing new books for their library, and sometimes they were lucky enough to have a book donated by their patrons. The library also had a growing membership as well. Prior to the death of Library Park designer and library board of director, Elizabeth (Litsch) Etter on May 5, 1938, she established a $2,000 trust fund through her estate which she bequeathed to the library board. The funds in this account kept growing over time. Later, library repairs, book repairs, and their regular bills were paid with money from this fund.

Up until the 1940s the Carnegie library board paid their librarian a minimal undisclosed fee. The Carnegie Library lacked a paid janitor while the library board often pitched in to help clean their building. Eventually, the librarian fee was changed during that decade to $65 per month and a janitor was employed to be paid $10 per month for cleaning services. During October of 1949, the library board allowed Redding residents to cast a vote whether to change to a county library or stay as a city library. At that time the vote was made to become a county library.

In 1961, the Redding City Council had Richard Ward, a city engineer examine the interior and exterior of the Carnegie Library building. After the inspection was done, he declared the structure to be unsound. At that time, it was Redding City Manager, R.W. Cowden who then urged the Redding City Council to demolish the building for a parking lot. It was primarily because of Ward’s opinion and it was estimated to be between $30,000-$60,000 in repairs to bring the Carnegie Library building up to safety standards. The Redding City Council considered this extreme estimate not feasible. They also claimed ownership to the property.

Above: the Carnegie Library with a parking meter out front on the Yuba Street side. The Carnegie Library had a registered address of  1527 Yuba Street. This photo is looking south at the entrance to the building. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society. 

It was known that the Carnegie Library building needed some repairs and an architect was hired by a Mrs. Marie Rice to examine the structure on March 10, 1962. The name of the architect was William Woollett. He was from Los Angeles, California and was a member of the National Preservation Committee of the American Institute of Architects.

After Woollett inspected the interior and exterior of the building he wrote a letter to Mrs. Rice who forwarded the letter to the Redding City Council and the library board with his suggestions on how the building could be brought up to date with the City of Redding’s safety standards. In this letter Woollett wrote the following: “This building deteriorated from lack of normal care. Any good building carefully and properly built will go to pieces without proper protection from the elements. But in my opinion this building can be brought to good use by immediate attention to the items mentioned in recommended specification.” There were a lot listed but there were only three stages of recommended specifications in the letter.

As hopeful as the above statement from Mr. Woollett sounded the demise of the Carnegie Library was approaching fast. This was a surprising blow to Redding City Manager R.W. Cowden who continued to push the Redding City Council to demolish the building for a parking lot. The city had already planned to build a new library at the corner of Shasta and West Streets in Redding, and it was completed in 1962.

Above: the alley way between the Lorenz hotel and the Carnegie Library. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

The library board transferred their entire catalog of publications and other items they needed from the Carnegie Library to the brand-new library at Shasta and West Streets before the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on March 12, 1962. Redding’s third library building would serve a whole new generation of readers. it is now the home of the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office at 1355 West Street.

Redding’s Carnegie Library building stayed open to the public from 1904-1962, a total of fifty-eight years. It was Redding’s second library and many people to this day cherish their fond memories of it. By December 31, 1962, the Carnegie Library was still standing on Yuba Street as a deserted building. Even the Redding Record Searchlight newspaper assured people that if the building was purchased it would be torn down in the future.

Meanwhile, the Shasta Historical Society took an interest in this building which became their first fight in historic preservation in Redding since their establishment in 1930. The Shasta Historical Society wasn’t going away quietly as a controversy raged on over the vacant building between the Society, the Redding City Council, and other organizations who showed an interest in the building. Eventually, Cowden’s motion for demolition was approved by the Redding City Council and the building was demolished against Woollett’s opinion in 1965, when it became a parking lot. Library Park survived the demolition phase.

Above: looking north behind the Carnegie Library with Library Park (now Carnegie Park) with its benches and palm trees on the left. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

Library Park continued to be used by various people throughout the years. In 1995, the Carnegie stage was erected on the same spot as the Carnegie Library, after it was designed by Trilogy Architecture. The stage was named after its predecessor and it became utilized for public concerts and special events. The original name of Library Park was in use from 1904 to February of 2017, a total of 113 years. This is when the Redding City Council was asked to change the name of Library Park to Carnegie Park by the Community Services Advisory Commission. A vote at the Redding City Council meeting took place that month and the name change passed.

My cousin-in-law, Todd Franklin is the developer and co-owner of The Park, Redding’s Food Truck Hub, who opened this poplar outdoor Redding family eatery at Carnegie Park on September 27, 2018. Franklin has a ten-year concession agreement to lease the area with the City of Redding for his company TF Investment Group LLC. It was a process to help the City of Redding take back its park which was controlled by many homeless people at the time. It’s now known in the community as “The Park” due to its popular advertising on the Carnegie Park grounds. Carnegie Park still retains its name by the Redding City Council. Today, Carnegie Park remains active as Redding’s premier family location for food trucks and their events hosted by Franklin’s company. 

Above: the opening weekend of The Park, Redding's Food Truck Hub. The Carnegie stage with a live band performing that night. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on September 28, 2018.

Above: the opening weekend of The Park, Redding's Food Truck Hub at Carnegie Park in Redding. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on September 28, 2018.

Above: looking north on opening weekend at The Park, Redding's Food Truck Hub, WITHOUT  the Carnegie Library building in the distance. Children playing bowling and other games as they usually do when the park is open to customers. This is Carnegie Park. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on September 28, 2018.


Handsome Library Will Be Erected In Redding - The San Francisco Call newspaper of San Francisco, July 29, 1902

Carnegie Calls Library Board - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, February 17, 1903

Carnegie Will Give The $10,000 - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, March 25, 1903

Offer Site For Carnegie Library- The Free Press newspaper of Redding, March 30, 1903

Taxpayers Want Carnegie Library - The Free Press newspaper of Redding - April 16, 1903

Merchants’ Club Endorses Carnegie Library Plan - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, April 11, 1903

Carnegie Money Now Available - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, June 22, 1903

Architect Wright Makes A Claim - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, July 2, 1903

No “Hitch” In Library Matters - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, July 8, 1903

Discuss Plans Of Carnegie Library - The Searchlight newspaper of Redding, July 10, 1903

Plans Adopted For Carnegie Library - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, July 18, 1903

Contract Let For Carnegie Free Library - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, August 12, 1903

Redding’s Library - The Chico Record newspaper of Chico, August 14, 1903

Library Work - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, December 18, 1903

Final Payment On The Library - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, December 29, 1903

Moving Library - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 4, 1904

Redding’s $10,000 Christmas Gift - The Carnegie Free Public Library - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 23, 1904

What The Women’s Improvement Club Has Done For Redding - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 23, 1904

Accepted Plans For Library Park - The Free Press newspaper of Redding, November 11, 1904

Library Facts Of Two Cities - The Red Bluff News newspaper of Red Bluff, March 24, 1905

1910 U.S. Census

Redding Library Prospers - The Sacramento Union newspaper of Sacramento, July 27, 1910

Library Report - The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, March 7, 1912

1920 U.S. Census

Action On Library Postponed For Year - The Sacramento Union newspaper of Sacramento, July 9, 1920

Mrs. Allen W. Etter Is Buried in Oakland – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, May 7, 1938

New Library Ready To Open - The Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding, March 10, 1962

Architect Urges Redding To Save Old Library Building - The Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding, March 12, 1962

Redding’s Library Stands Quietly But Noisy Historical Controversy Rages - The Sacramento Bee newspaper of Sacramento, June 17, 1962

Library Popularity Increases -The Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding, December 31, 1962

Library Board Ends Long - But Idle - Career - The Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding, December 31, 1962

The Litsch Family, unknown author. From the archives of the Shasta Historical Society.

The Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding, June 30, 1986

A Statement Of Appraisal Of The Physical Condition Of The Carnegie Library At Redding by William Woollet, A.L.A., Los Angeles, California, March 14, 1962. From the archives of the Shasta Historical Society.

Report: California Carnegie Library Buildings. From the archives of the Shasta Historical Society.

Redding & Shasta County: Gateway To The Cascades written by John D. Lawson, ©1986 by Windsor Publications, Inc., 184 pages ISBN 0-89781-187-9

A Timeline of Redding Development Growth Destruction and Rebirth by David McCullough

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