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Columbia Branch History - Seattle Public Libraries

Step back in time with us as we dive into the history of the Columbia Branch Library.

In June 1909, the Seattle Public Library established a modest branch within the main room of the old Columbia City town hall on Rainier Boulevard (later Rainier Avenue South) at Hudson Street, rent-free. The accommodations were humble, with patrons needing to venture to a nearby furniture store for restroom facilities, crossing the unpaved street and railroad tracks!

By 1911, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's generous donation heralded a new chapter in library development. By 1912, a suitable site for the Columbia Branch was selected and purchased, funded by $2,500 from community contributions and $2,000 from the city. A snapshot from the summer of 1915 captures the library's construction, with the Columbia Branch officially opening its doors on Dec. 30, 1915. Be sure to peruse the newspaper clipping from the grand opening and explore images of the original reading room.

A significant renovation in 1931 revitalized the Columbia branch, just prior to budget cuts prompted by the Great Depression.

Fast forward to 1998, when Seattle voters endorsed a substantial upgrade through the "Libraries for All" bonds, allocating $196.4 million for improvements. This initiative led to an impressive expansion and renovation project, culminating in its completion in 2004. Take a glimpse into the library's reopening through the photo and excerpt from the RVHS 2004 Summer newsletter.

Today, the library remains a vital cornerstone of the Columbia City community, offering a diverse array of events and activities.

Share your cherished memories of the library in the comments below! 📖💭


Photo 1: Columbia Library under construction, 1915. RVHS Photo (1996.73.01)

Photo 2: Snippet from Columbia Branch Library opening. RVHS Photo: (1993.1.506)

Photo 3: Columbia Branch Library, 1927. Courtesy of MOHAI (1983.10.745)

Photo 4: Reading room, Columbia Branch, 1915. Courtesy UW Special Collections (1983.10.9205)

Photos 5 & 6: Photo and article taken for RVHS Summer 2004 Newsletter Documenting the grand opening of the expanded library.

Photo 7: Photo of the library provided by SSF Engineers from their collaboration with Cardwell Architects on the 2004 renovation project. 


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