Fremont Library to celebrate 85 years

Longtime Fremont Library patron Robert McNeil remembers when he was a small child in the 1920s and the library was a big attraction to him and his family.

They would walk there regularly, he recalled: "I would come home from the library and spread all the books on the floor - they were very handsome, you know. And even though I couldn't read, I really enjoyed it."

Whereas other libraries in the system are "bigger and rather imposing," McNeil said, the Fremont Library is more inviting because "it's at street level - just one step and you are there. It was, still is a very friendly place to go and read."

Understanding the past

The Fremont Library will celebrate its 85th anniversary on Saturday, July 22, with a rededication ceremony kicking off the event at noon.

Joan Johnson, branch manager and the driving force behind the celebration, sees the branch as particularly special because it was the first satellite branch from the Seattle Public Library's main downtown branch.

It is also the only Seattle library designed in Mission Revival style.

"For the festival, we are harking back to our 1921 opening," Johnson said.

The day will be a way for the attendees to "see a piece of the past," said children's librarian Joanna Trefethen. "We are all so inundated with now, we are so future-orientated."

She said understanding the past is important. "You can know more about what is happening today when you know about the past," Trefethen explained.

Also, neighborhood artist Sarah Lovett will lead a family craft project, in which participants can help create a historical timeline of the Fremont Library.

A library-history exhibit also will be unveiled on the day of the event.

The only one of its kind

Fremont has had a library since 1903, but the ceremony will rededicate the current building, which was built with a grant from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

It was the last of the Carnegie-funded libraries to be built in Seattle at that time, Johnson said. The city was running out of money and couldn't afford to hire a private architect as it did for the rest of the libraries; instead, the city architect was hired.

That is the reason it looks "totally different from the other Carnegies in the system. All the others have much more of that classical feeling to them; they are symmetrical," Johnson said.

She thinks Daniel Huntington's design is the most interesting one, noting that "It's my favorite Carnegie in the whole library system."

Huntington is said to have been inspired by an Italian farmhouse.

The library, at 731 N. 35th St., was recently renovated and reopened in April 2005. Improvements included an updated collection of books and materials, more seating and several more computers.

The library coordinated the renovation with Seattle Parks and Recreation, which built Ernst Park next door.

The biggest change for longtime patrons has been the removal of the one desk that was both reference and checkout at the entrance, Johnson said. The services are now performed at two desks, one on each side of the entrance.

Last summer, the wooden plaque located near the west entrance was replaced by a bronze one without much notice.

"I didn't even know it happened," Johnson said.

Something for children, too

Saturday's festivities will include a legacy story time, featuring children's stories from the turn of the century up to the 1920s.

Trefethen, who will read the stories, is looking forward "to showing the children what kind of books they had back then," she said.

Little bedtime books that fit in children's hands and books with linen pages will be among the display of children's books that are considered artifacts to the library, she said.

Although Trefethen hasn't decided yet which books she'll read, among the list of possibilities are Aesop's Fables and books with silhouette illustrations.

She said she is especially excited about reading a book that has an accompanying paper doll that she will change during the reading of different stories.

In addition to the readings and the crafts, anniversary cake will be served, and Seattle City Council-member David Della and Seattle Public Library board member Linda Larson are scheduled to attend.[[In-content Ad]]