Sorosis Club of Orlando
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.
The Albertson Public Library
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. On November 10, 1921, Captain Albertson, the library committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the mayor and commissioners met to discuss Captain Albertson’s proposal to donate his book collection to the city. The proposal made the front page of the Evening Reporter Star the following day. Mayor Duckworth and the city commissioners unanimously accepted Captain Albertson’s proposition and his collection of books on November 12, 1921.
The official agreement was signed on November 26, 1921, and stated that Captain Albertson would give 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.
On February 21, 1922, the City held a bond election for certain municipal improvements, including a public library building. The total cost of the building, grounds and equipment was $110,000. On November, 8, 1923, the doors of the Library were opened to the public. Read more about the Albertson Library in the beginning.
ABOVE: 1945 painting by James Stoll. 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.
Read more about the Albertson Public Library – In the beginning!
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 December 1949, the bookmobile was on the road!
Friends of the Library
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”.
Expansion or a New Library Needed
Board of Directors Proposal For Expansion
In February 1954, the library Board of Directors published the “Proposed Building Expansion Program,” stating that the Albertson Library was inadequate to serve the present and future population of the city of Orlando. The proposal called for an expansion of the current building or an additional structure on adjacent property.
What we need and Why we need it?
In the “Statement of Clara Wendel, Director, Albertson Public Library,” created around 1958, the need for a new main library building in Orlando and two conveniently located branch library buildings was explained in detail. Ms. Wendel enumerates the inadequacies of the current building and lays out the requirements for a new building.
Orlando Jaycees Report
Library Committee of the Orlando Jaycees published a report in 1959 on library conditions, stating the the Albertson Public Library was no longer able to meet the needs of its staff or the community.
Preparation for the long awaited and badly needed 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.
Orlando Public Library
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.”
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.
25th Silver Anniversary, November 1948
The 1948 booklet created in 1948 with a review of the library’s history through 1948.
Welcome to your Public Library – Silver Anniversary
Booklet created by library staff for the Silver Anniversary open house.
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 – 75th Anniversary
Library History booklet created in 1998 for the 75th 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.
OPL Expansion Celebration 1986
The Orlando Public Library expansion Celebration took place on Sunday, April 6, 1986.
OPL Expansion – 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.
OPL Expansion – Central Florida Magazine April 1986
The April 1986 Central Florida Magazine presents the history of the library from its earliest beginnings to the expansion completed in 1986.
Persons and departments mentioned in photos below: Margaret Wells, Genealogy Department, Friends Bookstore, Young Adult Department, Remodeling of the 2nd floor, Business and Social Science Department, Questline, Craig Wilkins, Mary Ann Hodel, Library Director Dorothy Field, Rich Gause, Carl Brown, Kathryn Robinson, Susan Zwer, Angela Jacobe, Eleanor Crawford, Angela Green, Debbie Moss, Circulation, Dorothy Field, Elvis, Carolyn Rosenblum, Bob Tessier, Eleanor Gentry, John Martin, Judy Mucci, Paul Neal Heather Bodiford, Arts and Literature department, Debra Tour, Debbie Tour, Rita Lloyd, TicTac Toe, Carl Brown, Carl “Captain Crunch” Brown, Katherine Cooper, DRI Office, Special Services, Director Glenn Miller, Eleanor Crawford, Audio Visual Department, Monika Cooper, Joe Justice, Dawn Villano, Cam Rickleman, Mark Minzak, Steve Gataletto, Mary Jane Humm, Sally Hardy, Ruth Quinn, Carla Fountain, Books by Mail, Maxie Pittman, Nedra Blanke, Underwood Martin, Toni Ripley, Wizard of IS, Tonia Hinkle, Alzo Reddick, Sally Fry, Ann Gistarb, Bell, Beauty and the Beast, Central Florida Zoo, Kris Woodson, Kelly Pepo, Lynette Schimpf, Sheri Chambers, Remodeled Library Central, Halloween, Elinor Williams, Nicole Cavallaro, Tammy Erikstrup, Staff Association, Staff Association Cook Book, Ramsey, FISH Spirit, Talking Books, Eatonville Branch, Coloring Contest, Technical Services Remodel, Staff Day 2008, Mike Worrell, Charlie Hoeck, Albertson Public Library, August Calabrese, Winter Garden Branch, postcard, Mercedes Stephens, Brian Calhoun, Gregg Gronlund, Anne Rosebrock, Pat Lane, Pam Sogge, Nicole Heinzleman, Vera Gubnitskaia, Eric Heinzleman. 1966 Library, 1985 Library, Cam Rickleman, Chuck Davis, Sue Wright, Crystal Sullivan, Patsy Aman, Cathy Jensen, Danielle Camelle, Rosemary Breitup, Dana Oscarson, Brian Calhoun, Lisa Gryzinski, Lisa Stewart, Bobi Gonzalez.
Library History timeline 1900-1991
Article published November 11, 1921, Front Page, Evening Reporter Star
November 11, 1921, Front Page, Evening Reporter Star
On November 12, 1921, the City Commissioners met and unanimously accepted Captain Albertson's offer to donate his collection to the people of Orlando.
On November 26, 1921, Captain Albertson and the Mayor of Orlando signed the agreement by which Captain Albertson would donate his library to the people of Orlando.
In February 1954 the Board published a proposal to expand the library to meet the current and future needs as the building was strained to the limits.
Library Directory Clara Wendel's statement regarding the need for additional space or a new building to meet the needs of the staff and public as the current library could not meet those needs any longer.
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.
Article on the Orlando Public Library brutalist architecture.
Brochure cover for the Dedication of the Orlando Public Library on August 7, 1966.
Open House booklet for the celebration of the 25th Anniversary.
Silver Anniversary of the Albertson Public Library
Open House booklet for the celebration of the 75th Anniversary.
Booklet produced in 1986 for the grand opening of the newly expanded library and the remodeling of the 1966 library.
April 1986 edition of the Central Florida Magazine.