New Skyway Library, in the suburbs south of Seattle, holds dedication ceremony on March 8, 1970.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 2/13/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20290

On March 8, 1970, the new Skyway Library, in the suburbs south of Seattle, is dedicated. The new 5,200-square-foot building at 7612 S 126th Street replaces a tiny library from 1954 that was less than a quarter of the size. The $234,050 tan brick structure is funded by a 1966 King County Library System (KCLS) bond issue and federal matching funds through the Library Services and Construction Act. The building will house the library until 2016, when KCLS opens a new $8.3 million Skyway Library.

Skyway and Its Library

Skyway, an island of unincorporated King County between Seattle and Renton, was born in 1944 when the Skyway Park housing development was opened to meet the housing demands of defense workers. The fledgling community opened its first library in the back room of a bakery in 1953 and contracted with KCLS to operate it. In 1954, the Skyway Library moved into an 800-square-foot portable wartime housing unit that had been hauled to a Skyway lot and refurbished with volunteered labor and materials.

The tiny Skyway Library was expanded to 1,100 square feet in 1963, but by 1966 it was evident that the community had outgrown its library. KCLS included a new Skyway Library building in a successful 1966 bond issue. Ground was broken in 1969 at the 7612 S 126th Street site, a short distance from the old library. The architects were Bridges-Burke Architects of Seattle and the contractor was Robert A. Hawkins Co. of Burien.

The completed 1970 building was a vast improvement over the old "shack," as the prior library was sometimes called. At 5,200 square feet (sometimes listed as 5,100), the new library had space for 20,000 volumes. It was carpeted throughout, was air-conditioned, and had an attractive enclosed garden court. It included some modern library innovations, such as phonograph listening tables. There was a children's area, along with a staff workroom and lounge. The interior was painted in bright oranges and reds, and light streamed in from skylights.

A Gratifying Moment

The dedication ceremony on March 8, 1970, was emceed by Carl Malnati, the Renton High School principal, and featured music by the A. W. Dimmitt Junior High School string quartet. The keys to the building were handed to Mrs. Richard A. McMullin, chair of the KCLS Board of Trustees, and Ronald Vessey, chair of the Skyway Library Board. Remarks were delivered by Herbert F. Mutschler (1919-2001), director of KCLS, and Washington State Librarian Maryan E. Reynolds (1913-2004).

Back in 1953, one Skyway Branch Library Board member had said that "building our own library" was "a nice dream, but so far, that's all it is" -- so this 1970 opening ceremony must have been a gratifying moment for the Skyway Library's longtime supporters ("Board Minutes"). Over the next 46 years, the fine new building would become an important learning space and gathering place for the Skyway community.

In 2016, KCLS opened a new 8,000-square-foot Skyway Library, within a block of the 1970 library. However, the 1970 library building was not demolished. It was purchased by a local Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which began holding services there in March 2016.


Sources:

"Skyway Library Community Study 2010," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed December 1, 2016 (https://w3.kcls.org/community_studies/Skyway%20Library%20Community%20Study.pdf); "Delivering on a Promise to Voters: KCLS Capital Improvement Plan, 12-Year Report, September 2016," KLCS website accessed February 6, 2017 (https://w3.kcls.org/capital_bond/12%20Year%20Capital%20Bond%20Report.pdf); "Open House Program," March 14, 1953, historical collection, Skyway Library, Seattle, Washington; "Skyway Branch Library Board Minutes," June 30, 1953, historical collection, Skyway Library; "Brand New Library for Skyway in '69," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 14, 1968, clipping in historical collection, Skyway Library; "Skyway Library Dedication Ceremony Program," March 8, 1970, historical collection, Skyway Library; Harold "Jiggs" Hoyt, The Story of Bryn Mawr, 1872-1986 (Snohomish: Snohomish Publishing Company, 1986); Goorish Wibneh, "Converted Library Is a Blessing to Ethiopian Faithful in Skyway," South Seattle Emerald, April 30, 2016 (https://southseattleemerald.com/2016/04/30/converted-library-is-a-blessing-to-ethiopian-faithful-in-skyway/).


Related Topics:   Buildings | Education | King County Library System

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