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Orlando Public Library Expansion 1982-1986

OPL Expansion from 60,000 to 290,000 square feet!

From APL to OPL

The Orlando Public Library was dedicated on Sunday, August 7, 1966, replacing the old Albertson Public Library which opened to the public on November 8, 1923. Compared to the old library, the new 60,000 square foot building was huge, but within a few years the need for additional space to serve the rapidly growing population of Central Florida became apparent.

According to the library history timeline 1900-1991, due to shortage of space, the old Salvation Army building was leased from the City of Orlando in June 1977, and the Extension Department was relocated to that facility to make room for additional books and services in the main building.


ABOVE: The Orlando Public Library at 10 North Rosalind circa 1969.

Orlando Public Library Expansion Facts

Excerpts from the Orlando Public Library Expansion Facts

The Orlando Public Library is the headquarters and main library of the Orange County Library System. The new building will fill an entire city block bounded by Rosalind, Central, Magnolia, and Wall Streets. Voters approved a $22 million dollar library expansion bond issue referendum by a 59% margin in September 1980…

Architecture is by Schweizer Associates, a local firm. Schweizer’s Duane Stark is the project manager and library director Glenn Miller is actively involved in the design process. The original Orlando Public Library, which opened in 1966, was designed by John Johansen of New York City. The expansion design uses the dominant lines and strong concrete textures of the original building…

New features include a drive-up window to enable patrons to pick up and drop off library materials. There will be a typing room, a small canteen, and rooms for people to take smoking breaks. The six meeting rooms will accommodate 12 to 250 people. An area has been set aside for a potential used book store operated by the Friends of the Library.

Out with the old and in with the new

An article in The Voice published April 1, 1982, announced that the expansion of the Orlando Public Library would soon begin. The author gives an overview of the history of the library from the original Albertson library to the Orlando Public Library dedicated in 1966. The article also states that site clearing for the new $22 million library building was expected to begin within weeks. The site clearing process included the demolition of the old Chamber of Commerce building, the original Salvation Army Citadel, and the home of Mrs. Julia Bennett.

A library timeline from 1900-1991 states that in May 1982, the library departments that had been operating in the old Salvation Army building were moved to the Annex at 453 North Orange Avenue, and that in August 1982, the old Chamber of Commerce and Salvation Army buildings were torn down.

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The Orange County Courthouse Annex, the old Chamber of Commerce building, the original Salvation Army Citadel, and the 1966 Orlando Public Library can be seen in the above photo circa 1980. Directly across Central Boulevard from the library is the old University Club building.

The photograph below, taken from the Lake Eola side of Rosalind looking southwest, captures the Rosalind club (lower left), University Club, 1966 Library, Salvation Army Citadel, old Chamber of Commerce building with Mrs. Bennett’s house, the court house annex, the historic structures on Court between Pine and Central and several churches.

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The Chamber of Commerce building, above, was located on Central Blvd. at Magnolia. The beautiful Morrish style structure featured an interior fountain and colorful tile. One of the overhangs over the two entrances now graces the entrance to the Friends of the Library Bookstore on the 3rd floor of the Main library in downtown Orlando.

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The Salvation Army Citadel at 115 East Central, above, opened in Orlando in 1920. In 1967, the Salvation Army launched a campaign to construct a new building.

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The home of Mrs. Julia D. Bennett at 130 Wall Street was located just behind the old Chamber of Commerce building. The deed for the sale of the property shows that she sold her home to the Orange County Library District on July 23, 1981.

The Chamber of Commerce, Salvation Army Citadel, the Albertson Public Library and Mrs. Bennett’s house are depicted as they were in 1945 in this painting by James Stoll. The painting is part of the Orlando Remembered display on the 4th floor at the Main library in downtown Orlando.

Groundbreaking – December 7, 1982

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.

With the local television news crew from Channel 9 recording the event, library director Glenn Miller and other dignitaries participated in groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion of the library. Construction began shortly after the event.

To help residents deal with the inconveniences during construction, the library published a pamphlet entitled “How to preserve your tranquility during the expansion of the Orlando Public Library.” The pamphlet provided information on alternate parking, a map for locating nearby branches, how to use the books by mail service, and more.


VIEW the brochure.

Under Construction

With everything in place – building plans approved, buildings demolished, 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.


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The third floor appears to be in the process of being poured in this aerial view of the construction in progress. The stacks of rough sawn cedar used to imprint the poured concrete walls can be seen piled up and wrapping the fire escape stairwells.


ABOVE: Under construction circa 1984. VIEW larger image.

The above photograph provides a nice view of the old staff lounge and patio on top of the 1966 building. It is now a storage area accessible from the 3rd floor of the expansion.


ABOVE: The staff patio situated on top of the 1966 library building. The staff lounge, now called the Patio Room, is to the
left in the photo from “Johansen’s Orlando Library” in the June 1967 Architectural Record.

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.

VIEW Welcome!

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.

READ Complete press release from library director Glenn Miller.

The April 6, 1986, special supplement of the Florida magazine mentioned in Glenn Miller’s press release, entitled “The New Edition – Check It Out,” is a user’s guide to the new expansion and the remodeled 1966 library, with a cutaway of the floors showing department locations.

Mr. Miller spoke with Orlando Sentinel reporter Nancy Pate about his favorite library customer – “Harry Smith.”

As for Harry Smith, he is you and me and all the other taxpayers served by the greatly expanded main library building in downtown Orlando. Harry Smith is Glenn Miller’s favorite person.

“Harry Smith is coming in the front door,” Miller said. “What is going to happen to him? Now, if he’s wandering around blankly, then we’re not doing our job. Our goal is to help Harry. The reason we’re here is because the taxpayers decided they were going to have library services. And we got hired to give them those services, to respond to their needs. This building is Harry Smith’s.”

“Service to people is the force behind the building. Our primary mission hasn’t changed, isn’t going to change. I want this library to maintain and enhance its credibility with the people who are paying for it by giving them the information they need. Budgets and buildings aren’t the important thing. Harry Smith is the important thing.”

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.

Let the Festivities Begin!

Library patrons and dignitaries gathered on Sunday, April 6, for the “Celebration Sunday” grand opening event. The Color Guard from the Orlando Naval Training Center presented the colors while the Naval Training Center band played the National Anthem. All in attendance were given tours of the new building and treated to music on each floor.

ABOVE: Library director Glenn Miller speaking in front of the entrance at the 1:00 p.m. ribbon cutting, and in the lobby on the stairs behind the information desk.


ABOVE: Color Guard from the Orlando Naval Training Center presenting the colors.

BELOW: Navy Band from the Orlando Naval Training Center.

Orlando Sentinel writer Nancy Pate attended the Celebration Sunday grand opening event and her article published on April 7, 1986, captures the excitement of library staff and guests:

Several thousand visitors got a behind-the-scenes look at how the library operates when they came to a celebration marking the official completion of the downtown library’s expansion… The 290,000-square-foot building at 101 East Central Boulevard has six levels and fills an entire city block…

“This has really been a labor of love,” Glenn Miller, director of the Orange County Library System, told the crowd gathered for the 1 p.m. ribbon cutting ceremony. “You now have the finest public library building anywhere.”

The expanded building has been open for a year, but not all departments were in their permanent locations until Sunday. The audio-visual department, for example, moved from the fifth floor to the first floor… Tour guides and orange signs directed visitors to areas of interest, including those such as technical services and data processing that are not normally open to the public. Strolling musicians provided entertainment, and volunteers passed out free balloons.

“Well, this really is a happy day,” said Clara Wendel, who was director of the library from 1943 to 1970. “I’m extremely pleased, but the building has exceeded even my expectations.”

Library staff members had no way of keeping track of how many people entered the building Sunday, but the circulation turnstiles counted those exiting. By 5 p.m., more than 2,600 people had left the library, and at least another 1,000 were inside.

VIEW additional images from the Grand Opening of the new Orlando Public Library on Celebration Sunday, below under Images and Documents.

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Circa 1980 city block

L-R Orange County Courthouse Annex, Chamber of Commerce, Salvation Army, Orlando Public Library. AT&T building in background and the University Club far...

Aerial view of Pine - Magnolia - Central - Rosalind circa 1982

Taken from the Lake Eola side of Rosalind looking southwest, captures the Rosalind club (lower left), University Club, 1966 Library, Salvation Army...

Model of 1985 Expansion Building. Photo by Andy Parra.

Model of 1985 Expansion Building. Photo by Andy Parra.

Construction information

Construction information for the 1985 expansion.

Mrs. Julia Bennett's home.

Home of Mrs. Julia Bennett at 130 Wall Street.

Chamber of Commerce Building

The old Chamber of Commerce building located at the corner of Magnolia and Central. It was built in Moorish style with a...

Salvation Army Citadel at 115 Central Blvd.

The Salvation Army Citadel at 115 Central Blvd was constructed in the 1920s. The Citadel relocated in the 1960s after a campaign...

December 1982 Friends of the Library Newsletter

December 1982 Friends of the Library Newsletter announcing the groundbreaking celebration at 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, 1982.

December 1982 Friends of the Library Newsletter

December 1982 Friends of the Library Newsletter announcing the groundbreaking celebration at 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, 1982.

December 7, 1982

Groundbreaking ceremonies hosted by library director Glenn Miller were conducted on Tuesday, December 7, 1982 at 12:05 p.m.

1985 Orlando Public Library Expansion Facts

Published in August 1985, the Orlando Public Library Expansion Facts gives an overview of the entire project.

Library Expansion April 1, 1982 Article

Newspaper article in the April 1, 1982 "The Voice" announcing the beginning of the library expansion.

Library Expansion Brochure 1982-1984

Brochure cover, "How to preserve your tranquility during the expansion of the Orlando Public Library"

Page 2 - construction plans 1982 expansion

Page 2 of the construction plans for the expansion of the OPL showing the first floor of the expansion and the existing...

Expansion under construction

Photo circa 1983 of the expansion of the Orlando Public Library.

Library Expansion Open House - May 29, 1985

Flyer handed out at the grand opening of the newly expanded Library building on May 29, 1985.

FOL Newsletter August 1985.

FOL Newsletter August 1985.

February 1986 - Expansion Press Release

February 1986 press release from library director Glenn Miller announcing the Grand Opening celebration for the Main Library, to be held on...

FOL Newsletter March 1986 Grand Opening

Friends of the Library March 1986 newsletter. "Coming up - The Grand Opening Celebration, Sunday April 6. The Grand Celebration of the completion of...

FOL Newsletter 1986 Grand Opening

Cover of the Friends of the Library Newsletter from April of 1986, promoting the Grand Opening of the Main Library expansion project....

Color Guard - Naval Training Center.

Color Guard and members of the Naval Training Center Band at the grand opening of the expanded and remodeled Orlando Public Library...

Color Guard - Naval Training Center.

Color Guard and members of the Naval Training Center Band at the grand opening of the expanded and remodeled Orlando Public Library...

Naval Training Center Band

Color Guard and members of the Naval Training Center Band at the grand opening of the expanded and remodeled Orlando Public Library...

Naval Training Center Band

Color Guard and members of the Naval Training Center Band at the grand opening of the expanded and remodeled Orlando Public Library...

Grand opening April 6, 1986.

Crowds gathered across the street from the library for the grand opening celebration April 6. 1986.

Library director Glenn Miller

Library director Glenn Miller speaking at the grand opening celebration April 6. 1986.

Grand opening April 6, 1986.

Crowds gathered for the grand opening celebration April 6. 1986.

Grand opening April 6, 1986.

Crowds gathered for the grand opening celebration April 6. 1986.

Library director Glenn Miller on the stairway.

Library director Glenn Miller on the stairway behind the information desk on the first floor speaking to crowds.

Artist's rendering of the expanded OPL

Artist's rendering of the expanded OPL

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Library history timeline 1900-1991

Library History Timeline 1900-1991


Julia Bennett deed to the Orange County Library District

Deed showing Julia Bennett sale of property at 130 Wall Street to the Orange County Library District on July 23, 1981.


Friends of the Library Newsletter December 1982

December 1982 Friends of the Library Newsletter announcing the groundbreaking for the Orlando Public Library expansion project on Tuesday, December 7th at 12:05 p.m.


During the Expansion brochure

Brochure for main library customers offering suggestions for accessing materials while the entire block was under construction.


April 6, 1986 Florida Magazine Supplement to the Orlando Sentinel

Florida Magazine supplement to the April 6, 1986 Orlando Sentinel heralding the grand opening of the expansion completed in 1985 and the newly remodeled old building completed in 1966.


1982 drawings of the first floor

Pages 2 and 4 of the construction plans for the expansion and remodel of the 1966 Orlando Public Library, including the temporary staff entrance into the 1966 building which was in use during construction.


April 1986 Central Florida Magazine

Multipage article covering the history of the library from the earliest beginnings to the new expansion and renovation of the Orlando Public Library published in the April 1986 edition of the Central Florida Magazine.


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