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Brand Library restoration: A return to grandeur

Brand Library's conversion to original state makes it "a living museum."

July 20, 2013|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • While showing the living room at the Brand Library, City of Glendale Library Administrator Carolyn Flemming, second from left, talks about the renovations and restoration going on at the landmark library in Glendale on Friday, July 19, 2013. The $9.5 million project began in July 2012 and the library will open in the Spring 2014. At right is Brand Library Gallery Director Annette Vartanian.
While showing the living room at the Brand Library, City… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

One year into the $9.5-million renovation and seismic retrofit of Glendale's Brand Library & Art Center, the original 1904 mansion of city father Leslie C. Brand is starting to look like itself again.

Drab "popcorn" ceilings installed during the estate's 1956 conversion to a library have been stripped away and replaced with hand-painted Victorian stencil work that was recreated from originals hidden for more than half a century.

PHOTOS: Brand Library renovations continue

Plain white walls are now back to their vintage deep blues, greens and reds.

Sliding "pocket" doors of mahogany and oak that were sealed up inside those walls now separate rooms.

A stone fireplace that was smashed to make way for bookshelves has returned to the parlor, and Tiffany leaded-glass windows that had been covered over or obscured by grates now refract sunlight onto floors being converted back to hardwood.

"We really want people to walk into this house and get a feeling of how it was when the Brands lived here," Glendale Library Director Cindy Cleary said. "It will be a tourist destination."

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Or, as Library Administrator Carolyn Flemming said, "a living museum" — complete with audio tour headsets and possibly even a smartphone application to guide visitors.

Work on the 5,000-square-foot library and its companion 21,000-square-foot art center, built in 1969, started last July and is expected to wrap up before the end of the year, with the buildings scheduled to reopen for the public in early spring, Cleary said.

But for now, tens of thousands of books and recordings that make up two-thirds of the library's specialized music and art collections remain packed into boxes in the gallery room. Other items have been moved to Glendale's Central Library.

Previously scattered throughout the complex, collections items will re-emerge in a single room featuring one easy-to-use "continuous line of the Dewey Decimal System," Cleary said.

Other changes to the 1969 addition include seismic, temperature-control and disability access upgrades, as well as new bathroom and kitchen spaces that library officials hope will turn the Brand Library & Art Center into a destination for weddings and other special events.

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Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.

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