The beginnings of the current Orange County Library System can be traced to the circulating library collection of the Sorosis Club of Orlando. 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 was an avid book collector. For many years he maintained a library in his home in Waverly, New York, and loaned books to residents. In November 1920, Captain Albertson offered his extensive collection to the city of Orlando with these stipulations: the city would provide a suitable library building, it would be called the Albertson Public Library, and Captain Albertson would serve as the Advisory Superintendent of the Library.
The above painting by James Stoll shows the area surrounding the Albertson Public Library in 1945. West of the library are the Salvation Army Citadel, Orlando Chamber of Commerce Building. Further west on the other side of Main Street (now Magnolia) is the old red brick Court House with the new court house to the right. On Wall Street is the Orlando Utilities building, the Young Women’s Community Club and the First Church of Christ Scientist. Just north of the church on Rosalind you can see Memorial Junior High School.
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 agreed 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. A notice published in the February 27, 1949, Sentinel Star announced that the Winter Park – Orlando Zonta Club was meeting to sponsor a new organization to be called “Friends of the Library”.
By 1959 the Library Committee of the Orlando Jaycees published a report on library conditions, stating the 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 three years later in 1962 when Orlando voters approved funds for construction 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. On July 23, 1966, the temporary location closed and the staff and collections were moved to the new building.
The Orlando Public Library building was dedicated on a rainy Sunday afternoon on August 7, 1966. The architect, John M. Johansen of New Canaan, Connecticut, called his design a “composition in monolithic concrete.” The 50th Anniversary Souvenir booklet provides more details.
In 1974, just eight years after the opening of the new library, it became evident that much more space was needed. 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, and in 1980 the voters approved the sale of $22 million in bonds for construction of the new building.
The 1966 building closed in March 1985 and the new expansion opened to the public on April 8, 1985. Renovation of the 1966 building began immediately, thereafter. A grand opening celebration for the expansion and renovation took place on Sunday, April 6, 1986.
The 290,000 square foot Orlando Public Library encompasses an 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 of the Brutalist style building. 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 structure. The measure of Stark’s success is apparent in the exterior of the building. The color and texture of the new exterior walls match the rough hewn cedar pattern of the original poured-concrete walls belying the fact that they were completed 19 years apart.
Orlando Public Library – Marking 50 Years of Library Service
Library History booklet created in 1973 for the 50th Anniversary of the Orlando Public Library.
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 – 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.
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 Avenue 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.
Orlando Public Library New Building Dedication - 1966
Program from the 1966 Dedication Ceremony of the New Orlando Public Library Building
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The 50th anniversary of the Orlando Public Library.
Four newspaper pages about the new library building completed in 1966.
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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.