Vermont Square Branch Library

Vermont Square Branch Library

Vermont Square Branch Library is the oldest branch library in the Los Angeles Public Library system. It is located about a mile southwest of the University of Southern California campus, in the Vermont Square district of the South Los Angeles area. The branch was the first of six libraries built with a $210,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie; it was opened to the public on March 1, 1913. Designed by architects Hunt and Burns in the Italian Renaissance style with Prairie style proportions, this one-story structure rests on a raised foundation and is topped by a red tile roof supported by broad overhanging eaves. The symmetrical facade is divided into three sections. The central portion is faced with terracotta blocks with geometric patterns reminiscent of Classical motifs. The staircase leads up to the entry which has a Palladian transom above. The entry is located on a landing midway up the stairs. The top-half of the staircase is located inside of the building.

The building was one of the most widely visited in the southwest section of the city in its early years. During the year 1917-1918, there were 368 meetings in the branch's auditorium. During World War II, the branch was designated an air raid shelter and Red Cross casualty center; it was also used by the draft board as a registration center. The Vermont Square Branch was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument (No.264) by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 1983. 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 Vermont Square Branch Library was closed in May 1990 in compliance with the earthquake safety codes. It is the only one of the three remaining Carnegie branches to be damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The branch was extensively renovated and reopened in May 1996. As part of the renovation, artwork by Nobuho Nagasawa was installed. Nagasawa's artwork consists of functional library furniture, including 11 preschool stools in the shape of letters that spell out the word "IMAGINATION," and a glass table sandblasted with the names of books that have been banned in some of America's public schools.

Address: 1201 W. 48th. Street, Los Angeles, CA 90037



Branch History:

Status: Active

Additional Resources

Brief history of the Vermont Square Branch Library (First seven years).

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.

Front entrance to the Vermont Square Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, 1930. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections.

History of the Vermont Square Branch Library (1913-1936).

Know your Southwest: No.6 Vermont Square Branch Library.

Letter from Arthur and Jevne Rohman to Jack Smith, Los Angeles Times (1983, April 14).

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

Los Angeles Public Library. (1996, May 11). Grand opening celebration for the Vermont Square Branch.

Los Angeles Times. (1913, February 18). First local Carnegie Library completed: Vermont Square Branch Library ready for dedication.

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.

Smith, J. (1983, March 27). Story of the Vermont Square branch of the public library is an open book. Los Angeles Times.

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.