The history of Mission Library

As you know, the Mission Library will be on the Historic Home Tour this year, and we couldn’t be more excited! Here’s a brief history of the building, written by Mary Hanel.


A public library was first established by the Santa Clara Board of Town Trustees in November 1903, opening in two rented rooms in the Franck Building at 1047 Franklin Street. In 1914, the Library was assigned permanent quarters on the second floor of the newly erected City Hall at Franklin & Washington Streets. However, it was not until October 1953 that a trained, professional librarian, Miss Frances Klune, was appointed to head the Library. Miss Klune was the driving force for establishing a dynamic program of library services, which included investment in a separate library building.


Designed by architects, Higgins and Root, it was built in 1955 in Santa Clara’s historic Plaza Park. The building, 7900 square feet, was constructed at a cost of $100,660 including basement, patios, walls, fences and shelving, opening with a collection of 19,000 books. The general contractor was Morrison Reese and The Rotary Club of Santa Clara volunteered to landscape the grounds around the library building. When the building was dedicated on October 30, 1955, it was described in this way, “…its large patio and glass walls, revives the spirit of the gracious way of life of Mission Days. Designed in accord with the tradition of early California, the building with its warm colors and rich textures gives an atmosphere of quiet tranquillity.”


First called the Santa Clara Public Library, when a Central Library opened on Homestead Road in 1967, this building became known as Mission Branch Library. In a project to remove asbestos, the library was remodeled in spring 1989. In 1994 the Parks & Recreation Department oversaw the construction of a gazebo in Plaza Park to be reminiscent of the bandstand that was once there from the early 1900s through the mid-1950s. In late 1999, the library was closed for remodeling so that it could re-open in November 2000 as the Mission Library Family Reading Center, serving as both a neighborhood library for the Old Quad and headquarters for the library’s Read Santa Clara literacy programs.


The Mission Library is once again in the process of a renovation and remodel project working with Noll & Tam Architects. As a bonus site on this year’s Home Tour, the library will be sharing both a photo exhibit of its historic past and its renovation plans.

%d bloggers like this: