We are a group of Fullerton citizens concerned that the historic Hunt Branch Library building is in imminent danger of being sold by the City of Fullerton. We are exploring viable options for its use to benefit the community rather than allowing this public asset to be sold to a private concern. We invite your ideas and participation. For general information about the Hunt, visit the page "About the Hunt Branch Library" on this site.
The California Historical Resources Commission has approved the California Register landmark nomination for the 1962 Hunt Center and Library. The landmark nomination was one of four nominated properties on the consent calendar of the Commission’s February 1 meeting agenda. The report accompanying the nomination noted that the “district retains a high degree of historic integrity.”
The Hunt Center includes the Hunt office building, the designed landscape, a platform with metal canopy, six modernist benches, and six hexagonal planters. The Hunt Office Building was characterized as exhibiting “all the striking elements of the international style,” including its “rectilinear form and steel structure, glass panels, and repeated modular panels.” The Hunt Office Building and its surrounding grounds are owned by Grace Ministries International, who added a large unrelated structure to the property after purchasing it was Hunt Wesson, Inc. Grace Ministries currently leases the Hunt Library from its owner, the City of Fullerton.
The Hunt Library, conceived as a companion to the Hunt Office Building in style, was described as embodying all the features of a small branch library of the period, designed in the international style, one seldom otherwise used in Fullerton. The nomination also cited the importance of the Hunt Library having been designed by word famous architect William Pereira and commissioned by Norton Simon, a self-made industrialist and art collector.
On November 20 the Fullerton City Council officially added the Hunt Branch Library located at 201 S. Basque Ave., to the list of the city’s Local Landmarks. The designation is meant both to recognize significant structures in the city and to prevent them from being inappropriately remodeled or destroyed. The addition to the list was unanimously recommended by the six members of Fullerton’s Planning Commission present for their October 24 meeting.
According to the staff report given by the Community Development Department’s Joan Wolff, “This designation is given to a building, structure or natural or manmade feature having a historic character or historic, cultural, architectural or aesthetic value with respect to the heritage of Fullerton, which merits preservation, restoration and/or protection.”
The report cited three of the ten criteria under which buildings can be designated Local Landmarks, including its significant style and outstanding design, as well as the importance and influence of its architect William Pereira. The presentation included images of the library dating to 1963, just a year after it opened, along contemporary views, noting that the building looked very much the same as it did over half a century ago. Ms. Wolff described the Hunt’s style as International, although its roofline incorporates elements of the more Brutalist style employed by Pereira in his later works, some of which, like San Francisco’s Transamerica building and UC San Diego’s Geisel Library were also shown in the presentation.
The City of Fullerton owns the Hunt Branch Library and surrounding grounds, although the building is currently leased out to Grace Ministries International (GMI), who, in 2000 purchased the adjacent property that once served as the headquarters of Hunt Wesson/ConAgra. The library’s architecture echoes that of the GMI-owned four story office building, also designed by William Pereira. Together, the two structures and the surrounding park were conceived as a unified campus by Mr. Pereira and his client, Norton Simon, although GMI has since added other large buildings to it. Norton Simon commissioned the Hunt Branch as gift to the city in 1962, but the Fullerton City Council has not to allocated the necessary funds to operate it as a library branch since 2013.
No members of the council had any questions for Ms. Wolff. Public comments began with Bob Linnell, representing Fullerton Heritage, who had submitted the lengthy, well-researched application to the city. Mr. Linnell thanked the staff for the presentation and noted that Fullerton Heritage has also submitted an application to California’s State Historical Resources Commission “requesting that the Hunt Library and the former Hunt Administration Building and the surrounding campus be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” The application is expected to be heard by the state panel in February next year, and the state’s recommendation passed to the federal government in early summer for a final decision. Noting that a Landmark status adopted by the city was important to the National Register decision, he nonetheless observed that it would be Fullerton’s Local Landmark designation itself that would “better protect the building from any future threat of demolition or mistreatment or some compromise of the building’s architecture.”
Jane Reifer expressed the community group Save The Hunt’s support for listing the property as a Landmark, and thanked Fullerton Heritage for their years-long effort to that end. Fullerton Heritage’s application to the National Register includes all of the original Hunt Library and Office Building campus, but City Council changes to the Local Landmark process made within the last two years now make it more difficult to list privately held properties without the cooperation of owners, so only the city-owned Hunt Library was included in the local application.
Councilmember Greg Sebourn called it “an honor” to move the item. Mayor Chaffee, who has in the recent past supported selling the building, called the Hunt an “architectural gem” before voting along with the other four members of the council to unanimously designate it as Fullerton’s most recent addition to its list of Local Landmarks.
On the Fullerton City Council agenda, Tuesday, November 20 is the proposed designation of the Hunt Branch Library as a Fullerton Local Landmark. As noted in the staff report:
“The Planning Commission reviewed the application at a noticed public hearing held on October 24, 2018. Following a presentation from staff, remarks by Fullerton Heritage as the project applicant and public comments, the six members of the Planning Commission present (Pendergraft absent) unanimously recommended approval for designation of the property as a Local Historical Landmark.”
Readers are encouraged the attend the meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, to urge the council to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to designate the property as a Local Landmark.
The Hunt Branch Library is on the agenda of the Planning Commission, who also act as Fullerton’s Landmarks Commission Wednesday evening, October 24 at City Hall. The meeting will take place in the City Council chambers, 303 West Commonwealth Avenue, beginning at 7:00 p.m. It is the third item on the Commission’s agenda.
Local preservationist group Fullerton Heritage, have written an extraordinarily complete application found at this link on this website:
For reference, the Fullerton Municipal Code is cited in the staff report for the item. It reads, in part:
“15.48.060. Criteria for designation.
A. In considering a request for a “Historical Landmark” designation, the following criteria shall be used in determining eligibility:
1. Character, interest or value as part of the heritage of the city.
2. Location as a site of a historic event.
3. Identification with a person or persons or groups who significantly contributed to the culture and development of the city.
4. Exemplification of a particular architectural style or way of life important to the city.
5. Exemplification of the best remaining architectural types in an area.
6. Identification as the work of a person or persons whose work has influenced the heritage of the city, the state of California or the United States.
7. Embodiment of elements of outstanding attention to architectural design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship.
8. Relationship to other landmarks, where the preservation of one has a bearing on the preservation of another.
9. A unique location or singular physical characteristic representing an established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood.
10. Integrity as a natural environment that strongly contributes to the well being of the people of the city.
B. In considering a request for a “Landmark District” designation, support of the designation should be demonstrated by a substantial majority of the property owners within the boundary of the proposed district.
(Ord. 2982, 2001).“
The Hunt Branch Library, designed by a world famous architect who had a profound impact on the development of California in the last century, commissioned by an industrialist/philanthropist whose business was a significant employer in our city for over half a century, is a strong candidate for Landmark status. Please be sure to attend the meeting to support protection for this irreplaceable and unique structure Wednesday night.
The Library Ad-Hoc Committee will have its fourth and last meeting on Wednesday, October 10, , 1201 W. Malvern Ave. (park in the main lot at the top of the hill). The Committee is expected to draft a recommendation to the City Council regarding the possible uses for the Hunt Library. The agenda for the meeting can be found at this link: October 10 Library Ad Hoc Agenda
The Landmarks Commission hearing for the Hunt Library, that we originally expected for the same evening, has been postponed, so you can attend the Ad-Hoc at the Muckenthaler instead. We will alert you when the Landmark hearing is eventually scheduled.
Over a hundred people turned out Monday night, Sept. 24 to hear renowned architect and historian Alan Hess lead tours through Fullerton’s Hunt Branch Library before his evening presentation about the building and its architect next door at Pacific Drive Elementary School. The free program was organized by SaveTheHunt, a community group dedicated to keeping the currently closed library in public hands. The library is normally closed to visitors because the building and grounds are leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI), but access was arranged through the Fullerton Public Library. The large number of attendees necessitated two successive tours led by Mr. Hess, who spoke about the structure’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces and other mid-century modernist design strategies employed by the library’s architect William Pereira.
Mr. Hess is a co-founder of Preserve OC a non-profit dedicated to preserving Orange County’s architectural and cultural heritage. He is the author of more than twenty architecture books, the latest entitled The Ranch House, copies of which he later signed for the public.
The program continued next door in Pacific Drive’s Multipurpose Room, where SaveTheHunt organizer Jane Reifer welcomed the audience to the presentation. Following brief remarks about the history of the Hunt Branch, Fullerton Public Library Director Judy Booth spoke about the Library Ad Hoc Committee, of which she is an ex-officio member, charged with formulating a recommendation for the facility’s ultimate use to Fullerton’s City Council. (The Ad Hoc meets next at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center on October 10 at 5:30 p.m.).
The presentation by Alan Hess traced the varied career of William Pereira from architecture school days in Illinois to Hollywood, where he became an art director who won an Oscar for Best Special Effects in the early 1940’s. Eventually returning to architecture, Pereira formed a partnership with classmate Charles Luckman. Mr. Hess noted that the team’s landmark 1953 CBS Television City in Los Angeles was the first studio designed specifically for television production, and, thanks to good planning, is still operation today. The prolific team also designed the original Disneyland Hotel and the iconic “Theme Building” in the center of Los Angeles International Airport.
Later, Pereira’s own firm designed San Francisco’s Transamerica Tower and the original buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Mr. Hess emphasized that good planning and individual architectural character were the keys to Pereira’s success in designing not only buildings, but entire campuses, like the University of California, Irvine, and the master plan for the City of Irvine itself. He cautioned that, although Pereira’s 1973 wing of the L.A. Times complex just received Landmark status, many of William Pereira’s buildings have been lost, and that the LACMA buildings are threatened by that museum’s new master plan.Mr. Hess stressed the importance of protecting buildings like the former Hunt headquarters building, now own outright by GMI, and its companion Hunt Branch Library both as important local structures and internationally significant buildings to serve future generations.
A strong show of support for maintaining the Library Board of Trustees as appointees of Fullerton City Councilmembers kept the Council from passing an agenda item that would have seen them begin to supplant the Trustees on the Board as early as December. The agenda item, one of several in series ostensibly intended to streamline and update city commissions and committees, drew widespread public opposition. Dozens of attendees to the City Council’s meeting last Tuesday evening stood when Mayor Doug Chaffee asked who in the audience was against the change, while not a single member of the audience stood when the Mayor asked who supported it.
Following a presentation by the City Clerk Mayor Chaffee attempted to assuage audience concerns about eliminating appointed Trustees, assuring the crowd that no one on the City Council intended to supplant the Board, even though the agenda item’s appearance was engendered by Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald’s May 1 City Council comments, wherein she directly suggested exactly what the city staff report recommended on Tuesday night–that the City Council appoint its own membership to serve as Trustees to the city’s Library Board and create a less powerful Advisory Board, to which each Councilmember would appoint a representative. Since the founding to the library a century ago, members of the City Council have appointed members of the public, not themselves, to serve as Trustees.
Mayor Chaffee advocated passing other staff recommended changes to the Fullerton Municipal Code regarding the library, but met with direct opposition to even this course of action because the changes to the language were nowhere reproduced in the staff report attached to the City Council agenda. Many audience members were strongly circumspect about making any changes without know what they were and how they would affect the operation and governance of the library and its properties. The City Council, including Mayor Chaffee who is in tight race for the 4th District O.C. Board of Supervisors in November, ultimately backed down from passing anything.
Many community members were very suspicious about the motives behind the measure, ostensibly intended to bring the city’s code into compliance with the amended state code the governs libraries in California. Lacking any stated or printed reason for a revision that called for Council Members to serve as Trustees, some thought it might be an avenue for allowing the city to more easily absorb revenue generated by sale of library property–like the Hunt Branch. Both Doug Chaffee and Jennifer Fitzgerald have voiced support for selling the facility, currently closed to the pubic and leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International.