ABOVE: April 20, 1983, looking Northeast with the 1966 OPL in the top right corner.
Expansion of the 60,000 square foot 1966 Orlando Public Library was planned even before it opened on August 7, 1966, but the people of Orlando probably didn’t think it would expand to a 290,000 square foot structure that filled the entire block!
Groundbreaking – December 7, 1982
With the approved building plans in hand, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Orlando library expansion was held on Tuesday, December 7th at 12:05 p.m. An invitation to attend the groundbreaking was published in the December 1982 Friends of the Library Newsletter with information on the project:
Twenty different construction companies submitted bids on the contract for construction of the expansion of the Orlando Public Library… The apparent low bidder is Great Southwest Corporation, with a bid of about $14 million… The Great Southwest contract just covers building the expansion and remodeling the present library, not furniture, equipment or other materials.
ABOVE: Library Director Glenn Miller at the groundbreaking December 7, 1982.
Orlando environmental design group Schweizer Associates Incorporated was awarded the contract to design the expansion of the Orlando Public Library. While they specialized in providing architecture, engineering, planning, construction and interior design services, they also enlisted other firms for their expertise in other areas including John M. Johansen, FAIA (consulting architect and designer of the original 1966 building), Gensert, Bretnall, Bobel (structural engineer), Tilden, Denson, Lobnitz, Inc. (mechanical and electrical), Foster, Conant and Associates, Inc. (landscaping) and Samuel Coston, II (equipment consultant).
The advertisement above is from the Special Supplement of the Orlando Sentinel for the grand opening celebration of the OPL expansion and the renovation of the 1966 library on April 6, 1986. Architect Duane Stark and interior designer Dianne Walsh of Schweizer Incorporated are featured in “Functional Design, Practical Solutions,” on pages 12-14 of the supplement.
Nils Schweizer, the founder of Schweizer Associates, was known to many as the “dean of Orlando architecture.” At the January 2020 meeting of Orlando Remembered, Beverly Schweizer, wife of Nils Schweizer, spoke about the expansion of the Orlando Public Library, and architect Jerry Uhran spoke about Nils Schweizer and the origins of Central Florida Modern.
The simplicity of the exterior of the structure belies the complexity of the building plans. Dated October 7, 1982, the over 150 pages of building plans cover every aspect of the project, beginning with an Index of Drawings, Abbreviations, Reference Symbols and Materials. The plans were scanned and are divided into sections for ease in viewing, with a copy of the Index at the beginning of each.
ABOVE: Plans for phone booths – Section A, sheet A-59.
Section A – Section A includes Floor Plans (sheets A-5 to A-16), Roof Plan (A-17), Reflected Ceiling Plans (A-18 to A-29), Exterior Elevations (A-30 to A-33), Building Sections (A-34 to A-40), Stair Plans (A-42 to A-45), Doors (A-49 to A-53), Millwork (A-63 to A-68), and Signage. Also included are the Floor Plans and Reflected Ceiling Plans for the existing 1966 building (A-70 to A-77).
Section S – Structural section includes Foundation Plans (S-1, S-2), Framing Plans (S-3 to S-16), Foundation Details (S-18, S-19), Concrete Stair, Column and Beam Details (S-20 to S-28), Concert Sections and Details (S-30 to S-36).
Section E – Electrical section includes Power, Lighting, and Systems Plans for the five floors and basement (E-1 to E-37), Panel Schedules (E-41 to E-44), Roof Lightening Protection Plan (E-46), Master Antenna (E-48), and intercom diagrams (E-49).
Section P – Plumbing section includes Plumbing Plans for all five floors and basement (P-1 to P-13), Sanitary and Water Riser diagrams, and Plumbing Plans for the existing building (P-17 to P-20).
Section FP – Fire Protection section includes plans for all five floors and the basement (FP-1 to FP-12), and for the existing building (FP-15 to FP-18).
Note: Mechanical plans are listed in the index but are not part of the digitized images.
ABOVE: Landscape plan – Section L, sheet L-1.
Section L – Landscaping Section includes landscaping and irrigation plans.
With everything in place – buildings demolished and site preparation complete – construction began in December 1982 on the 230,000 square foot expansion of the Orlando library. The section of the architect’s drawing, below, shows the site after demolition, with the public parking lot and staff parking area on the left side behind the existing 1966 building on the right.
Sheet A-3 of the OPL Expansion building plans – Section A.
Construction Photos by Smith Aerial Photography
Aerial photos by Smith Aerial Photography, literally show the new Orlando Public Library expansion rise from the bare earth to become a five-story building with a basement. It must have been amazing to see photographers hovering over downtown Orlando snapping photos of the construction site!
ABOVE: October 21, 1983 – Second Floor under construction looking North with the AT&T building on the left and the Harley Hotel and Orthodox church on the right at the top.
The library expansion opened to the public on April 8, 1985. John Wark, reporting for the Orlando Sentinel, described the expansion in his article dated April 9, 1985:
The library had been closed for three weeks while workers moved everything from the old building on Rosalind Avenue to the 230,000-square-foot addition that stretches west along Central Boulevard. The move finished; the library doors reopened at 9 a.m. Monday. But not to trumpets and fanfare. Instead of celebrating the opening of the new wing, library officials will wait until fall when renovation of the old library wing is expected to end…
As workers continued with finishing touches on the new addition Monday, library director Glenn Miller gave guided tours and answered questions. He pointed out the subtle details designed into the addition — the automated doors to the new entrance on Central, for example. Doors of the old building were not automated, making it difficult to enter the library with an armful of books…
Perhaps most importantly, there is now so much room it is no longer necessary to put books on the top and bottom shelves, which are often the most difficult to reach, Miller said…
Joan Erwin said an estimated 3,000 visitors a day are expected to use the library by the time the expansion is completed, and the old wing reopens. In contrast, 1,400 a day visited the old library.
In May 1985, an official welcome event was held with refreshments and guided tours.
Excerpt from Welcome! to the Orange County Library System’s New Orlando Public Library dated May 29, 1985:
Still to Come: Features still to be completed include a drive-up window to enable patrons to pick up and drop off materials, public typing rooms, a small canteen, six meeting rooms to accommodate 12 to 150 people, and story rooms for the Children’s Department. Also under construction are the permanent locations for the Audio-Visual Department (now in a future storage room on the fifth floor), for the Genealogy Department (now in a future Friends of the Library Book Store on the third floor), and for three departments still in a rented Annex: Technical Services, Data Processing and Special Services (Books-by-Mail, Talking Books, Interlibrary Loan, Jail Service, etc.).
Celebration Sunday – Grand Opening April 6, 1986
The official Grand Opening was postponed until April 1986 to celebrate both the expansion and the remodeling of the 1966 building so the two structures were one cohesive structure.
Excerpt from library director Glenn Miller’s February 1986 announcement regarding the Grand Opening:
April 6, Celebration Sunday, will be a landmark event in this community’s history. Taxpayers approved the Library Expansion Referendum by a 60% majority in 1980, and on April 6 those taxpayers and their families will feast on the fruits of their investment in the quality of life in Central Florida.
The above booklet, created for the grand opening celebration on April 6, 1986, was given to everyone in attendance at the opening. Additional copies were available to visitors, providing an overview of the layout of the building and highlighting elements of style and décor.
The April 1986 edition of the Central Florida Magazine features a six-page history from the library’s earliest beginnings to the expansion celebration in April 1986. Read more about the 1986 Grand Opening Celebration.
Select the first photograph under Images (below) and click on the arrow on the right of each photo to watch the building rise from the ground upward.
To enlarge one of the images, right click on the image and either choose “Save image” or “Open image in a new tab,” then use the “magnifier (+/-) icon) to increase the size and see details.
Section A - Index of Drawings, Abbreviations, Reference Symbols, and Materials.
Section A - Floor plans, reflected ceiling plans, building sections, exterior elevations, millwork, existing floor plans, finish door and partition schedule existing building, signage.
Section E - Electrical site plan, lighting plan, power plan, systems plan by floor. Symbol legend and lighting fixtures, lighting control diagram and telephone, switchboard, motor control centers, panel schedules, roof lightening protection plan, master antenna riser.
Section FP - Fire Protection plan by floor, legend and schedules.
Section L - Landscaping and Irrigation
Section P - Plumbing site plan and fire protection by floor, enlarged room plans, sanitary riser, water riser, plumbing plans existing building.
Section S - Structural foundation plan, framing plan by floor, details and general notes, concrete stair details, concrete columns, concrete sections and details.