This article was previously published in the Fall 2018 print edition of the Glen Park News.
The year 2018 marks the 110th anniversary of the Glen Park Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Established through the advocacy of Glen Park suffragists, the branch stands today as a testament to determined community activism and an indefatigable love for books.
The new residence district of Glen Park boomed in the years immediately following the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By February 1908, 40 civic-minded women working to achieve the right to vote had organized the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, the first of its kind in the “suburban” districts of the city. Part of their stated mission was to advocate for funding of basic community infrastructure for the primarily working- and middle-class residents. Led by President Ada Parker Stillings, in August of that year League women successfully campaigned for the first library in Glen Park.
Not yet designated as a full branch of the library, Delivery Station F opened in September 1908 at 2975 Diamond St. (the site of today’s Glen Park BART station) in a dry goods store owned by Mary Bridget Mullally Hamilton. An activist and organizer in her own right, Hamilton was also moving up the ranks of civic leadership by founding the California Auxiliary of United Spanish War Veterans and, by 1915, rising to the presidency of the organization’s National Auxiliary.
Later named Glen Park Deposit Station F, the branch library relocated several times over the next 85 years. The first occurred in June 1914 when it moved to 598 Bosworth St. at Diamond, and again in February 1918 when it moved next door to 596 Bosworth. There it remained until January 1927, when Glen Park Deposit Station F became a full-fledged regular branch of the San Francisco Public Library, in response to a request from the Glen Park Community Club.
Located at 700 Bosworth St., at the northwest corner of Lippard Avenue, the new branch offered reading material for both adults and juveniles. By 1953, the City was paying $65 in rent monthly to building owners Nickolaos and Madeline Paxinos for the library space.
The Glen Park branch reached its highest circulation during this era in May 1939, with a distribution of 5,075 books and periodicals. In the post-war years 1946 to 1952, the average monthly circulation decreased to 3,723, and by 1957 to 2,890. With costs for circulation now at 31 cents per book—twice the citywide average—concerns arose that keeping the Glen Park branch open would become cost-prohibitive. As a result, it was considered for closure.
During this period, the Library’s Bookmobile began making stops at the branch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 1 and 2:30 p.m. Yet, despite the threat, the branch remained open.
Then, in the summer of 1964, the building at 700 Bosworth, along with many others on the north side of the street, was slated for demolition. With the threat of the Circumferential Expressway bisecting the neighborhood and Glen Canyon Park, Bosworth Street was slated for widening from two to four lanes. After nearly 40 years at this location, the Glen Park branch moved to 2909 Diamond St. at Bosworth, also the site of today’s BART station.
Four years later, in July 1968, and despite protests from local residents, the BART District purchased the block for $100,000. This caused the branch to move again in 1969 when construction of the BART station began, this time to the corner of Diamond and Kern Alley, the location of today’s Gialina pizzeria.
In 1970, William “Bill” Tietz, a Glen Park native, and his wife, Val, endowed their land at 653 Chenery St. to the San Francisco Public Library. They demolished the old hardware store the family had operated for years and constructed a new building expressly to house a library, where the branch remained for the next 27 years (today, it is the home of Bird & Beckett Books and Records).
Finally, in 2005 and for the first time in the branch’s history, the City moved the Glen Park branch into a City-owned, non-rental property at 2825 Diamond St., in a new building it shares with Canyon Market and residential condominiums.
Today’s branch, constructed at a cost of $5.5 million, opened on Oct. 13, 2007; then-Mayor Gavin Newsom cut the ribbon. It stands today as a monument to the 110-year history of neighborhood book-loving, thanks initially to the civic leadership demonstrated by the ladies of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League and dry goods store owner Mary Bridget Mullally Hamilton. s
Evelyn Rose, project director and founder of the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, is documenting the histories of Glen Park and nearby neighborhoods. To learn more, visit www.GlenParkHistory.org. To join the mailing list, contact GlenParkHistory@gmail.com.