UPDATED WITH PARKING MAP! (See below)
William Pereira’s Hunt Branch Library: Fullerton’s Hidden Mid Century Gem
Rare Opportunity to tour Fullerton’s Hunt Branch Library, September 24, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., 201 S. Basque Ave, Fullerton, CA
Presentation by Alan Hess, September 24, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Pacific Drive Elementary School, 1501 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton, CA
Renowned architect, historian, and author Alan Hess will discuss William Pereira’s contributions to architecture and planning in the 20th Century and the significance of Fullerton’s Pereira-designed Hunt Branch Library building on Monday, September 24, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Pacific Drive Elementary School, near the library itself. The presentation will be preceded by a special tour of the Hunt Branch Library from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. The program is presented by Save the Hunt, a community group dedicated to keeping the now closed Hunt Branch Library in the public realm. The tour and program are free of charge. Free parking is available at Pacific Drive School.
Though beloved by generations of Fullerton residents, the Hunt Branch Library is unknown to many outside of the city, who are often surprised to find such a well preserved modernist “hidden gem” near quiet suburban neighborhoods. This tour offers a rare opportunity to experience the spacious interior of the Hunt Library, with its largely untouched mid century details and open air alcoves.
The Library was a gift to the City of Fullerton from the Norton Simon Foundation in 1962. The ten thousand square foot building closely mirrors the style of the former Hunt Food & Industries headquarters, a four story structure located adjacent to it, also designed by Pereira as part of an award-winning unified campus. Both buildings are particularly significant because they represent some of the architect’s final high modernist designs, but incorporate some elements of his later brutalist style.
For many years Norton Simon showcased paintings from his world famous art collection, now housed in his eponymous Pasadena museum, inside the library and installed sculptures by Giacometti and Rodin on its grounds. Mr. Simon had originally intended to build an art museum on the Hunt campus in Fullerton.
For five decades, since its September 1962 dedication, the Hunt Branch served as one of only two branches of the Fullerton Public Library, until being closed for lack of adequate operating funds in 2013 and eventually leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International. This arrangement was said to be temporary while GMI renovated their adjacent headquarters, the former Hunt Food & Industries headquarters. However, the lease has continued through 2018.
Architect and historian Alan Hess has written numerous books and monographs on Modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century, including works about the Googie style, the Ranch House, and about architects John Lautner, Oscar Niemeyer, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and has researched the history of Irvine, California, a city master planned by architect William Pereira. Mr. Hess earned a Master’s degree from the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. He is active in the preservation of post-World War II architecture.
Save the Hunt is 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. The group is exploring viable options for its use to benefit the community rather than allowing this irreplaceable public asset to be sold to a private concern.
A pdf of the flyer above can be found here: Sept. 24 Event Flyer
The third of four planned meetings of Fullerton’s Library Ad Hoc Committee will be held on Tuesday, September 4, 5:30 p.m. at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave. Interested members of the public are invited to attend. Parking is free.
The Library Ad Hoc Committee voted at their last meeting to invite members of the public to submit ideas about possible funded uses for the Hunt Library by the September 4 meeting.
The full agenda can be found at these links:
09-04-2018 Complete agenda packet
The agenda alone, without notes from the previous meeting, can viewed below…
The Library Ad Hoc Committee is requesting the public’s ideas about how the Hunt Branch could be funded as a library, or funded for other opportunities. The next meeting of the Library Ad Hoc will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton, CA 92833.
The new Library Ad-hoc Committee held its first meeting on July 11 at the Hunt Branch Library. The committee is charged with presenting options to the City Council for the ultimate disposition of the Hunt facility, now closed to the public, and leased out to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI), for the sum of $ 1,500.00 per month. Library Director Judy Booth, who serves as an ex-officio member of the Ad-Hoc, led dozens of members of the public on a tour of the historic William Pereira building before announcing that the meeting would have to be moved outside to accommodate the overflow crowd. Chairs, tables, microphones, and speakers were transported to the mid-century modern building’s spacious front porch where the meeting proceeded for hours through the warm summer evening.
The Library Ad-Hoc Committees mission is to ‘determine “what funding might be available to fund the (Hunt Branch Library) property as a Library or other opportunities for use of the property,” according to the meeting’s agenda. The five members of the Ad-Hoc directly appointed by City Council were first charged with the selection of a Chair and Vice Chair before selecting four additional members from a pool of nearly twenty applicants. During a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, however, applicant and former Fullerton City Council Member Jan Flory suggested reversing these two agenda items so that the additional four members of the Ad-Hoc could be seated before the Chair and Vice Chair elections. After other public comments, all five members of the Ad-Hoc (Peter Beard, Fern Richardson, Michael Williams, Egleth Nunnci, and Barbara Kilponen) voted to adopt Ms. Flory’s suggestion to reverse the order of the committee appointments and officer elections, taking up the former first.
Applicants were invited to introduce themselves to the committee members and respond to questions about their qualifications. In addition to Jan Flory, applicants included Rafael Avila, Scott Bryan (who withdrew his application on the spot), James Cho, Arnel Dino, homeless activist Curtis Gamble, former City Council Member and current NOCCD Board Member Molly McClanahan, Judith Milan, Kristie Prince, former Ladera Vista Principal Randa Schmalfeld, and nearby resident James Wolvert. Several applicants were not present for the meeting.
Ad-Hoc member Fern Richardson questioned applicant Jan Flory about her own role in failing to fund the Hunt as a Library and approving the lease to Grace Ministries during her tenure on the City Council. Jan Flory blamed the decision to “terminate library services” for the Hunt Branch on the economic downturn and the need for funds for the then-newly renovated Main Branch. She characterized the low monthly rental rate of $ 1,500.00 charged to Grace Ministries per month lease that she herself voted to approve as “shameful,” but explained that she supported it at the time because it was only supposed to last eighteen months, and that a plan was supposed to have been formulated for the Hunt’s future.
Each Ad-Hoc member rated a full list of applicants, with Library Director Booth serving as the de facto facilitator and elections committee. One audience member suggested that any applicant not present should not be considered for the position, but another noted that the date of the committee’s first meeting had not been advertised enough in advance for prospective members to alter prior commitments. The committee members agreed to consider all applicants, present or not. Ultimately, the four additional members selected by the committee were Jan Flory, Molly McClanahan, who was not present at the meeting, Kristie Prince, and Randa Schmalfeld.
Selection of a Chair and Vice-Chair ended in a deadlocked vote with four members supporting Peter Beard and four supporting Randa Schmalfeld. The eight present members agreed to proceed with the meeting with Peter Beard acting as Chair for the night, but postpone the decision on a permanent Chair and Vice-Chair until the next meeting, when a ninth member would be expected to break the tie.
The committee then addressed the scope of work it would perform, with respect to its City Council mandate, requesting materials and information for consideration at least three days in advance of their next meeting. Specifically, the committee directed the library staff to provide a spreadsheet and analysis of the projected costs to operate the Hunt once again as a library, including the estimated costs to update the facility to meet current requirements for publicly accessible buildings. Additionally, Committee Member Schmalfeld requested a detailed map of the property to help define which parts of it actually constitute the grounds of the Hunt with respect to the adjacent dog park surrounding tracts. Jan Flory went so far as to request all materials collected by SavetheHunt.com, a community group dedicated to keeping the facility in the public realm. The Ad-Hoc also committed to exploring other “beneficial uses of the building and grounds,” as well as possible funding sources for such uses.
The Library Ad-Hoc Committee will next meet at 5:30 p.m., Monday, August 6 at the Conference Center Room of the Main Library, located at 353 W. Commonwealth Ave.
The Library Ad-Hoc Committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, July 11, 6:30 pm at the Hunt Library itself. The meeting’s agenda is comprised of the the basic procedural tasks of choosing a committee chair, a time and date for the next meeting, and, most importantly, selecting four additional at-large members from a pool of more than a dozen applicants.
The ultimate composition of the Ad-Hoc could be a critical factor in determining what recommendations the committee will eventually make to the city council about what to do with the Hunt Branch Library facility. One hopes that a broad range of perspectives will be represented by the final roster of nine members. The meeting is public. Observers are invited to attend.
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.