Santa Barbara’s Carnegie heritage

When I walked into the reading room of the Santa Barbara Public Library, I knew Andrew Carnegie had had something to do with it. A large stone fireplace dominated the room, wood shelves were set into the walls, and dreamy 1920s-style paintings graced the walls. (If you don’t know, Andrew Carnegie donated millions of dollars to build libraries in the early 20th century.)

But I wondered about the mezzanine built in the centre of the soaring space; it brought down the ceiling and looked out of place. A librarian confirmed that the library had indeed received monies from Carnegie in the 1920s, although there had previously been a library in this location. She said that in the 1970s, an addition was built onto one side of the original building, which included the mezzanine, and she agreed that it had been unsympathetically done.

But despite that architectural misstep, the library designed in the Spanish style with a white stucco exterior and rounded windows is a beautiful part of the civic complex in downtown Santa Barbara, which also includes the County Courthouse and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.