By Thomas K. Pendergast
The Parkside Branch Library, a prime example of post-war, mid-20th century modernist architecture, was nominated for landmark status by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar when he introduced legislation at a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
The Parkside Branch Library, a prime example of post-war, mid-20th century modernist architecture, was nominated for landmark status by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar. This photo was taken in February of 2022. Photo by Michael Durand.
“The Parkside Library is a community gem and has served our neighborhood for generations,” Mar told the Board. “This resolution will help preserve its significance for generations to come.”
Sitting at the intersection of Taraval Street and 22nd Avenue on the southeast corner of McCoppin Square, the library branch was the first of eight such libraries when it was built by the architectural firm of Appleton and Wolfard in 1951, setting a trend that would continue until 1966, according to Woody LaBounty of SF Heritage.
The Parkside Branch Library at 1200 Taraval St., seen here under construction in 1950, was recently nominated for landmark status. It was the first of eight modern-style city branches constructed by the architectural firm of Appleton and Wolfard between 1951 and 1966. Photo courtesy of a private collector/Western Neighborhoods Project/OpenSFHistory.
It signaled a change from the more classical design of previous libraries built in the Richmond, Mission and Sunset districts.
LaBounty describes it as more like a cozy midcentury suburban house with comfortable seating, natural light from angled windows, exposed toned clay brick walls, a fireplace and a patio.
In general, the modernist architecture of that era embodied the then current library theory that called for attractive, inviting and casual library buildings that were in harmony with their surroundings, according to San Francisco Modern Architecture and Landscape Design 1935-1970, by Mary Brown of the San Francisco Planning Department.
Since then, this library branch has become woven in the cultural fabric of the Sunset District.
Obai Rambo, legislative aide to Mar, said he is a fourth-generation San Franciscan, and his family has lived in the Sunset for three generations.
He recalled going to the Parkside Branch Library when he was about 7 years old. He remembers they read “Where The Wild Things Are” during story time.
“It was awesome because the Metreon downtown used to have a ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ fun place in it,” Rambo said. “So, it was like having the story being read to you and being able to go downtown and see ‘Where The Wild Things Are.’ I still remember the intersection of the two. It was a great thing.”
His mother would also take him to movie nights at McCoppin Square.
“It really is one of those essential pillars of the community. I can’t imagine San Francisco without the pyramid, and I think I can’t entirely imagine our district without that library.”
LaBounty writes that architect Harold Wolfard is credited with bringing a Modernist aesthetic to the firm he led with Abraham Appleton and later, Appelton’s son Robert. The San Francisco Library commissioned Appleton and Wolford over the next 15 years to design and build seven more library branches: Marina in 1953; Ortega in 1955; Merced in 1957; North Beach in 1958; Eureka Valley in 1960; Western Addition in 1965; and Excelsior in 1966.
Two of those buildings however – Ortega and North Beach – have since been demolished.
Appleton and Wolfard also designed the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.
This is not the first time the Parkside Branch Library was nominated for landmark status.
In the early 2000s, according to OutsideLands.org, it was included in a group of buildings rehabilitated to bring them into compliance with current codes and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules because of a bond measure passed by voters in 2000.
The Appleton and Wolfard-designed libraries were nominated together as city landmarks in 2009, however, the Parkside Library Branch was removed from the others until after its renovation was completed in order to avoid delays.
In September of that year, the Historic Preservation Commission agreed that the Parkside Branch Library met the eligibility for listing on both the National Register and the California Register of historical places, thus city landmark designation was warranted.
Renovations were completed and the Parkside Branch Library reopened on Nov. 6, 2010.
The resolution to give the library branch landmark status is expected to be heard in the Land Use and Transportation Committee at the Board of Supervisors and then on to the full Board for a final vote.