Save the Hunt presented a public forum Monday night, June 25 entitled Hunt Library 101: Past, Present, and Future intended to educate the public about the history and importance of the facility and its place in the community. Over seventy people attended the forum, held at the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church.
Six different speakers each gave short presentations about different aspects of the library’s history, architectural and historic value, and the context of library services in the Southwest region of the city. Architect and architectural historian Alan Hess stressed the importance of preserving structures like the Hunt because of its architectural significance. Mr. Hess is a founding board member of Preserve OC, a group founded in 2016 to “promote conservation of our county’s architectural and cultural heritage.” (This week Mr. Hess was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to California’s State Historical Resources Commission.)
Event emcee Jane Reifer introduced each speaker, beginning with this reporter, who familiarized the audience with the history of the Hunt Branch Library’s origins, half century of operation, and eventual closure and lease. Ray Kawese, Investment Chairperson of the Fullerton Public Library Foundation clarified for the audience the role his group plays in providing additional support for the Fullerton Public Library, and the relationship between the Foundation, The Library Board of Trustees, who are appointed by the city council, and the Friends of the Fullerton Public Library, who operate the library’s used book store and organize periodic weekend book sales.
Former Mayor and current North Orange County Community College District Trustee Molly McClanahan presented a short abstract of a study by Dr. Ray Young, Emeritus Professor of CSUF’s Geography Department. The statistics covering education and income in Dr. Young’s study highlighted the need for cultural and literary services in the southwest region of the city.
Fullerton Heritage President Ernie Kelsey explained the criteria for properties to become eligible for landmark status, two of which are to be at least fifty years old and be architecturally significant. He characterized the William Pereira designed Hunt building as an excellent example of the modernist international style that retains its architectural integrity, noting that the architect’s later works soon gave way to a more brutalist style. Applications written by Fullerton Heritage for both local and national landmark status also note that two important landscape architects worked on the project, conceived by Pereira as a 26 acre Hunt Wesson Center campus for Norton Simon.
Fullerton Heritage began working on local landmark and federal registry status in 2013, just a year after the Hunt’s fiftieth birthday. Both applications have now been submitted, but it is unclear whether or the Hunt application will be heard as part of the October National Register agendas. Applications are only considered four times each year. The process generally takes four to six months to complete.
Fullerton Library Board Trustee Ryan Cantor spoke next, saying that for the “first time we’ve had some real momentum and some real energy in trying to bring a wonderful gift to the city to life” following a “period of inactivity.”
He recalled that an earlier Ad-Hoc Committee in 2012 was formed to evaluate the portfolio of library properties and came up with recommendations for funding in light of city and library budget constraints. In 2014 library trustees formulated three criteria for re-opening the Hunt:
- The library would have to be safe,
- The library should have a purpose separate and distinct from the Main Branch
- The library should be funded in a way commensurate with its purpose—estimated to be $ 1.3 million annually.
To this list he added a second set of three requirements for the Hunt as a center for the public:
- It should be free of charge
- It should be open to the public
- It should celebrate literacy, not only as a repository of books.
“Someone in this room knows someone who has the resources to make Hunt work,” he concluded.
Members of the audience filled out cards with ideas about potential future uses of the Hunt building and grounds. They included:
- Using it as an art and architecture museum or gallery,
- an interactive library with international communication
- a mini arboretum on the grounds
- a center for disadvantage students
- an art museum or library for the arts specifically for children or for local artists
- a homeless shelter
- an outpost for CSUF’s Croy Reading Center
- a community park with festivals
- and a site for interactive projects and exhibitions, with partners like the Museum of Teaching and Learning.
Another public informational program about the Hunt Library’s architectural importance is expected in September.