Mission Hills Heritage Seeks Historic Designation for Old Mission Hills Branch Library

| July 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

by Barry E. Hager

The old Mission Hills Branch Library at 925 W. Washington Street, located at the western gateway to Mission Hills, has been a presence in our community for almost 60 years.  Now we are in danger of losing this iconic building due to the City’s plans to develop the site, which would result in the complete loss of the building.

This Mid-Century Modern style building was designed by local architect Robert A. Bradt and built by contractor R.J. Hortie in 1960-1961.  Bradt was a student of pioneering modernist architect Mies van der Rohe.  The branch library is an excellent example of Mid-Century Modern architecture with its shed roof, wide eaves, walls of windows and stacked brick façade. The branch library is one of only a few intact Mid-Century Modern buildings located in the commercial core of Mission Hills and represents an important part of the layers of history in Mission Hills. The branch library opened to much fanfare in April 1961. Generations of Mission Hills residents, retirees and school children can recall hours spent in this bright, cheerful public library.

When construction began for the new branch library several blocks to the east, focus turned to the fate of the old branch library.  In November 2017, Mission Hills Heritage (MHH) wrote to Councilmember Chris Ward urging the city to adaptively reuse the old branch library, possibly for a public purpose.  The commercial core area of Mission Hills, much like commercial districts in towns across the nation, is filed with vintage buildings that have been adaptively reused for restaurant, shops and other uses, standing testament to the success of this historic preservation strategy. MHH was joined by the Mission Hills Town Council in calling for the City to preserve and adaptively reuse the old Mission Hills branch library, or at least to integrate the Mid-Century Modern façade into a project.  Furthermore, a majority of those responding to a survey conducted by the Mission Hills Business Improvement District last year favored saving the old branch library. 

Despite the community’s desire to preserve and re-use the building, the Mayor’s office recently unveiled a plan to re-develop the site for 28 units of support housing for the chronically homeless, a plan that would result in the complete demolition of the old branch library and construction of a large building on this small 5,000 square foot site.  While MHH does not take a position for or against supportive housing, the complete loss of the branch library is of keen concern to the group.

In order to preserve the old Mission Hills branch library, MHH has decided to apply for local historical designation.  MHH has retained the firm of Legacy 106, Inc. to prepare and pursue the nomination. The process will likely involve battles at the Historic Resources Board and possibly City Council.  MHH is accepting donations to help defray the cost of this process. Donations can be made at the MHH website at www.MissionHillsHeritage.org by clicking on the “donate” button.  With the help of Mission Hills residents, MHH hopes to save this iconic building for the benefit of the commercial core area and enjoyment of future generation of Mission Hills residents.

Barry Hager is a 20-year resident of Mission Hills and an advisory director of Mission Hills Heritage.

This vintage photo is from opening day, April 1961.

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News

About the Author ()