Greenwood Branch, The Seattle Public Library, opens on January 29, 2005.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 5/28/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7323
On January 29, 2005, the new Greenwood Branch, The Seattle Public Library, opens at 8016 Greenwood Avenue N.  This is the 13th project opened as part of Libraries For All, a $196.4 million bond issue passed by Seattle voters in 1998.

The new branch replaced a branch built in 1954 on the same site.  The Library board of trustees initially planned the new branch for a site four blocks north and had started condemnation proceedings against the McDonald’s restaurant on that property.  The McDonald’s site would have placed the new library at the heart of Greenwood’s commercial core.  The Greenwood community struggled to balance incorporating the new branch into the neighborhood’s urban-village plans while still achieving the Seattle Public Library’s goals of a 15,000 square-foot facility (double the old space) with adequate parking. 

The decision to reuse the 8016 Greenwood Avenue N site required closing and demolishing the old building and a nearby house.  The old facility closed November 1, 2003.

The new branch includes an auditorium, an expanded collection capacity of 66,700 books and materials, a special area for teens, increased computer capacity, two study rooms, a quiet room, and 36 underground parking spaces.  An outdoor balcony overlooks a planted green space.  Windows along the east side of the building offer a view of the Cascade Mountains, and clerestory windows in other areas flood the branch with natural light.  Designed by Buffalo Design, it cost $7,129,777 to build. 

Urban Hardwoods built the tabletops in the central area of the library out of an American red elm salvaged from Carnation.  Multi-filament chandeliers whose filaments culminate in tiny glowing shell-like shades cast a warm light that complements the building’s ample natural light.  Other lighting fixtures resemble glowing sea jellies.

The children’s area is defined by an undulating scrim-like wall and cradled in the broad angle created by two window walls.  Massive stone slabs protruding into the area offer young patrons a choice between perching on nearby child-scaled chairs and the rock outcropping. 

Portland artists Fernanda D’Agostino and Valerie Otani working with Henrietta Derix of Derix Glass Studios in Taunusstein, Germany, created three glass art pieces, windows embedded with text and layered images. Librarians and Greenwood library patrons were involved in the design process and modeled for these art pieces.

Mayor Greg Nickels (b. 1955) and City Librarian Deborah Jacobs welcomed Greenwood Branch patrons to their new building on opening day.


Sources: Judy Chai Hui Hsu, “Greenwood Library Opens,” The Seattle Times, January 30, 2005; Beth Kaiman, “Greenwood Library to Stay,” Ibid., August 30, 2001; Phuong Cat Le, “Board May Reconsider New Site For Greenwood Library,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 16, 2001; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington History, “Greenwood Branch, The Seattle Public Library,” (by David Wilma), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed May 18, 2005); “Greenwood Branch Art Gallery,” The Seattle Public Library website accessed May 18, 2005 (http://www.spl.org/); personal observation by author, May 20, 2005.

Related Topics:   Buildings | Education | Seattle Neighborhoods | The Seattle Public Library

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