Cahuenga Branch Library

Cahuenga Branch Library

Built in 1916, the Cahuenga Branch Library is the third oldest branch library in the Los Angeles Public Library system. It was the last of six branch libraries built between 1913 and 1916 with a $210,000 grant from steel baron Andrew Carnegie. The grant covered the building, equipment, and furniture of the branch — $33,978. The land itself was purchased by the city with the cost being paid through an assessment district. The name of the library was chosen for its historical relevance to the Indian tribe living in the area — the Cahuenga.

Designed by the architect Clarence H. Russell (1874-1942) in the Italian Renaissance style, the Cahuenga Branch Library is a one-story building with a high basement, a low pitched overhanging hip roof of clay tiles, and a wall of brick with tawny colored tapestry brick facing. It is surrounded by a landscape of lawn, ornamental shrubbery and trees. A large formal entranceway featuring a double stairway with matching volutes leads up from the sidewalk to the portal where it forms a veranda with a classical balustrade. The interior floor plan is of the butterfly type with the central entrance of marble and tile housing the charging desk and flanked by matching reading rooms for adults and children. The piers on the interior are capped with decorative Corinthian capitals.

The library was opened to the public on December 4, 1916. Its main programmatic activities included educational programs for adults and children, music performances, and lectures. The book circulation grew from year to year. In 1925, the annual circulation of books was 160,153, with a book stock of 11,406. The circulation increased during the Depression in the 1930s, raising up to 373,317 in 1933. During World War II, part of the library building was used for civil defense, resulting in the circulation decline from prewar 283,000 down to 180,000 during the war years. The library continued its growth after the war, responding well to demographic and economic changes in the local community. From 1971 to 1974 it received funds from the federal government to extend its services to those who previously had not been library users. A multilingual staff included persons fluent in Spanish, German, Russian, Persian, Armenian, Arabic and Chinese.

The Cahuenga Branch was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument (No.314) by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 1986. In 1987, along with several other branch libraries in Los Angeles it was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in a thematic group submission.

The historic building of the Cahuenga Branch Library was closed in 1990 in compliance with the earthquake safety codes; the branch moved to temporary space at 4627 Santa Monica Boulevard. The renovation work also included installation of computer work stations and other technological upgrades as part of the "Libraries Online!" project funded by Bill Gates and Microsoft Corporation. The renovation work was completed six years later, in 1996. Over the past sixty years, the Cahuenga Library has earned it place as one of the focal points of the community.

Address: 4591 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029



Branch History:

Status: Active

We love Cahuenga Library

Video by East Hollywood Neighborhood Council

Additional Resources

Adler, M., Branch Librarian, Cahuenga Branch Library. (1976). History of Cahuenga Branch Library, 1916-1976.

Carnegie Libraries of California website:

City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning (2007, September 7). Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments.

Figenshow, S., Morris McNeill, Inc., & Los Angeles (Calif.). (1990). Historic cultural monuments: A review of historical monuments to identify potential cultural facilities. Los Angeles, CA.: City of Los Angeles, Cultural Affairs Dept.

Los Angeles Public Library. (1928). From Handbook of the Branch Libraries: The Six Carnegie Buildings (1913-1916).

Los Angeles Public Library. (1996, January 29). Grand opening celebration for the Cahuenga Branch.

Los Angeles Public Library. (1994, March 7). Groundbreaking ceremony, beginning the renovation and expansion of the Cahuenga Branch.

Los Angeles Times. (1915, May 30). Beautiful Italian Renaissance edifice for East Los Angeles: Modeled after Italian types; New Library will suggest famous villa; Carnegie Branch structure on East Side to incorporate many interesting details, including circular reading-room and outdoor features.

Los Angeles Times. (1916, December 2). From Carnegie Fund: To open last of City's six library branches.

Los Angeles Times. (1916, December 3). Library opening: Dedication of Cahuenga Branch occurs tomorrow night.

McGrew, P., & Julian, R. (1994). Landmarks of Los Angeles. New York, NY: H.N. Abrams.

Morrison, P. (1996, January 31). Of Carnegie, Gates and Library Lore. Los Angeles Times.

Perry, E., City Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library. (1916, December 4). Address at opening of Cahuenga Branch Library.

Soter, B. D., Muench, J., & Library Foundation of Los Angeles. (1993). The light of learning: An illustrated history of the Los Angeles Public Library. Los Angeles, CA: Library Foundation of Los Angeles.