Before the Orlando Public Library came to be, the Sorosis Club of Orlando maintained a circulating library for its members. The collection was initially housed on the second floor of the old Armory building on Court Street and was subsequently moved to the Knox building at the corner of Pine and Court streets. On May 11, 1920, Orlando citizens showed by a vote of 417 to 19 that they wanted a library and were willing to pay for it.
Captain Charles L. Albertson, a retired New York City police inspector and winter resident of Orlando, had collected books at his home in Waverly, New York, for many years. In November 1920, Captain Albertson offered his extensive collection to the city of Orlando, on the condition that it furnish a suitable building to house it. The contract between the city of Orlando and Captain Albertson provided that the city of Orlando would accept the gift of the Albertson Collection and furnish the library building; that the library should be known as the Albertson Public Library; that Captain Albertson should be Advisory Superintendent of the Library throughout his lifetime, and that the city should suitably maintain the library.
In early 1949, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce presented a proposal for a bookmobile to the board of the Albertson Public Library. The ladies of the Orlando Sorosis Club determined that a bookmobile would allow the library to bring books to the small communities of Orange County so they spearheaded a drive to raise funds for the purchase of the vehicle. By November 1949, the bookmobile was on the road!
The Friends of the Library was also established in 1949. The February 27th Sentinel Star announced that the Winter Park – Orlando Zonta Club would be meeting for the purpose of sponsoring a new organization to be called the “Friends of the Library”.
By 1959 a committee of the local Jaycees evaluated the library and determined that the Albertson Public Library was no longer able to meet the needs of its staff or the community. The preparation for a new Main library began in 1962 when construction was approved by the Orlando voters, and the city acquired additional land adjacent to the original site at Rosalind and Central. In 1964, the library moved to temporary headquarters at 905 North Orange Avenue, the Albertson building was demolished, and construction began. The library closed its temporary location on July 23, 1966 and moved into the new building.
The new Orlando Public Library building was dedicated on a rainy Sunday afternoon on August 7, 1966. The architect was John M. Johansen of New Canaan, Connecticut. He called his design a “composition in monolithic concrete.” The 50th Anniversary Souvenir booklet provides more details.
The need to expand the Orlando Public Library became evident as early as 1974. In 1978 the library secured a commitment from the Orlando City Council to purchase the rest of the block to the west of the existing site. In 1980 the voters approved the sale of $22 million in bonds for construction of the new building.
In March 1985, the 1966 building was closed and the expansion opened to the public on April 8, 1985. Work on renovating the 1966 building began immediately. A grand opening celebration for the expansion and renovation took place on Sunday, April 6, 1986.
The 290,000 square foot building fills a entire city block bounded by Magnolia Avenue, Central Boulevard, Rosalind Avenue and Wall Street. It took 19,000 cubic yards of concrete to construct the expansion. A major challenge presented to architect Duane Stark and his team was to design an expansion that would blend seamlessly with the original 1966 Johansen design. The measure of Stark’s success is quite apparent in the exterior of the building. The color and texture of the new exterior walls were matched to the rough hewn cedar pattern of the original poured-concrete walls.
Johansen’s Orlando Library
Article about the Orlando Public Library – Architectural Record, June 1967.
Architecture for Florida Living
Photographic review in the 1968 premiere edition.
Library Expansion Open House – May 29, 1985
Flyer handed out at the grand opening of the newly expanded Library building on May 29, 1985.
Orlando Public Library Expansion Celebration 1986
The Orlando Public Library expansion Celebration took place on Sunday, April 6, 1986.
Orlando Public Library – Marking 50 Years of Library Service
Library History booklet created in 1973 for the 50th Anniversary of the Orlando Public Library.
Orlando Public Library – Orlando Sentinel – Florida Magazine 6 April 1986
The Florida Magazine section of the Orlando Sentinel published on 6 April 1986 heralded the opening of the new edition to the library.
History of the Orlando Public Library; History of the Albertson Public Library; Orlando Public Library History
Article reprinted from Architectural Record, June 1967, entitled "Johansen's Orlando library: compatible colony of varied forms." The article includes elevations, floorplans, and interior views of the library that replaced the original Albertson's Public Library.
You will note from the exterior photos, that the entrance to the library was changed from Central Boulevard to Rosalind via a ramp into what is now the Children's Department. The elevation drawing on the third page shows Children's Library in the basement and the staff area sharing the roof with the mechanical room on top of the 2nd floor.
The rooftop patio on the last page was adjacent to what was the staff area on the third floor.
You can still get a glimpse of the old stairwells with the brass handlebars from the children's department.
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Orlando Public Library New Building Dedication - 1966
Program from the 1966 Dedication Ceremony of the New Orlando Public Library Building
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Four newspaper pages about the new library building completed in 1964.
Annual Report for Fiscal Year ending September 30, 1997 includes stats on Revenues, Expenditures, highlights from the year and lists Governing Board, Board of Trustees and Friends of the Library members.
Names mentioned: Linda Chapin, Bob Freeman, Tom Staley, Mary I. Johnson, Clarence Hoenstine, Bill Donegan, Mable Butler, Brenda Robinson, Corbin M. Sarchet, Ronald H arbert, Darrell Julian, Jacquelyn Perkins, Laura Santos, Dorothy Field, Joy Dickinson, Bob Buckner, Chris Couch, Bob Dilg, Mary Flanigan, Ray Frenier, Bea Henderson, Edward Hofma, Cathy Miller Kennedy, Nancy Kiger, Bee Jay Kline, Max Minear, Judge Frederick Pfeiffer, Lisa Rost, Cree Deane Sherman, John Stilwell, Robert Umphrey, Joan Van Akin.
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