Library History

Watsonville's Carnegie Library

This beautiful Romanesque edifice was Watsonville's first library building. Funded by Andrew Carnegie and designed by local architect William H. Weeks, it was constructed by the Granite Rock company in 1905. This library, fondly remembered by many Watsonville citizens, was replaced by a larger building in 1975.
Today's library, in the Watsonville Civic Plaza, opened to the public in April 2008.

The Grandfather Clock

The Grandfather Clock was presented to the library by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks when the Carnegie library first opened its doors in 1905. On the pillar behind it, a plaque commemorates the library's founding and mentions the help of the Watsonville Women's Club in establishing the library. The Pajaro Valley Benevolent Association, the Odd Fellows, and the Women's Christian Temperance Union were other important contributors.
Grandfather Clock

The Clock Face

Take a close look at the workmanship that went into making this 1905 clock. The clock is housed in the California Agricultural Workers History Center on the second floor, if you'd like to see it in person.
Clock Face

History of the Watsonville Public Library

By Betty Lewis
Reprinted by permission

As far back as the 1860s, Watsonville had a library or reading room. This was run, at various times, by the Odd Fellows and the W.C.T.U. in various locations, and then the city took over the library in 1895.

It wasn't until 1905 that a library building was completed with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie. A grant of $10,000 was given in April of 1903 which signaled the go-ahead for the new library, but where to build it? At the time, there was an empty lot on the corner of Trafton and Union, next to Dr. Bixby's house, and owned by the good doctor. He offered to sell this lot to the city for $1,500 but there were some who thought the library should be in the center of the Plaza, and this started a debate that went back and forth in the local newspapers.

Judge Bockius came up with another answer - he would donate a lot on the corner of Maple Avenue and Lincoln Street, which was part of the Bockius tract. James Waters, local nurseryman, also offered to donate a lot on the corner of Lincoln and Fifth streets.

Richard Quinn, local realtor, had recently been sworn in as the new mayor following the passage of the city charter. The Board of Aldermen voted on a resolution to have a city election just to see where the people of the town wanted their library building. Mayor Quinn was for this resolution, but, at the last minute, had a change of heart. He decided the library should be in the plaza and there was no election.

"In consideration of the circumstances under which the resolution was passed by the Board, the mayor's veto is unexplainable, except upon the ground that he had truckled to the influence of a small coterie of San Jose politicians who are endeavoring to dictate the conduct of municipal affairs in this city," (The Pajaronian, November 21, 1903).

Meanwhile, Will Trafton, who had lost the mayoral election by only four votes, had appealed to the State Supreme Court as to legality of the ballots. In June of 1904, the decision was handed down from the court that ten of the votes were erroneously counted for Quinn, making Trafton the winner after all.

On July 8, 1904, William A. Trafton was sworn into office as mayor of Watsonville. One of his first acts was to appoint a Board of Library Trustees: Mrs. Eva Dickerman, Mrs. M.B. Tuttle, Mrs. Abbie Morehead, Miss Charlotte Bockius, and Miss Vina Redman.

On September 1, 1904, the Board of Aldermen met and by vote rescinded the vote made previously to have the library placed in the Plaza, and voted to buy the Bixby lot, now priced at $2,000.

Two plans for a new library building were submitted by local architect William H. Weeks, and one by William Knowles of San Francisco. On November 9, the plans of Weeks were accepted; the building to be of cream-colored pressed brick and Arizona sandstone with a roof of California black slate.

The Granite Rock Company won the bid for the construction of the building for $11,290. Carnegie had increased the grant to $12,000. In October of 1905, the doors swung open to the public - over two years after the first letter had been sent to Mr. Carnegie.

The year 1934 saw an addition costing $14,023 to the library. In 1959 the YWCA Salvage Shop at the corner of Maple Avenue and Union Street was purchased for the sum of $20,000 and, in 1959, the property behind the library was purchased for $19,500.

In November of 1973 the Watsonville City Council approved plans for a new library measuring 16,750 square feet and costing $860,000, with Max Kappler and Robert Axt as architects. The old Carnegie Library building was razed in November of 1975, and the new library building dedicated in 1976.

Librarians over the years have been: Belle Jenkins, Lucy Bliss, Gladys Andrews, Edith S Simons, Carma Zimmerman, Dorothy Chandler, Muriel Mitchell, Elizabeth Collins, Marie Delmas, Seely Sumpf, Vivian Hurley, Deborah Barrow, and Carol Heitzig.

In this day and age of television, videos, etc., libraries have had stiff competition, but they are still a viable and important part of our society. They are needed not only for people to check out books to read, but for educational purposes: speakers, book signings, social affairs, story time, research, displays, and genealogy.

Freedom Branch Library

The Freedom Branch Library became part of Watsonville Public Library in 1996. Architects Noll and Tam remodeled the old Freedom Firehouse at 2021 Freedom Boulevard to house the branch in the year 2000. In keeping with Watsonville's tradition of sponsoring public art, paintings by James Carl Aschbacher brighten indoor and outdoor walls of the library buildings.