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Brand Library restores earlier chapter of its history

Long-awaited upgrades to the library and art center were unveiled.

March 25, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Ceiling artistry intended to respectfully represent original artwork that was found in severe disrepair after being uncovered from asbestos-laden popcorn ceiling cover at the Brand Library in Glendale.The library, which as gone through extensive renovation and repair, will reopen again on Thursday.
Ceiling artistry intended to respectfully represent… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Historic elements of the Brand Library & Arts Center — the bright painted ceilings, elaborate glass windows, a stone fireplace, wooden sliding doors and an intricate art pedestal — that were hidden by modern renovations over more than five decades have been uncovered following an extensive $9.5-million restoration project.

And officials who worked on the two-year construction project now point to the hidden details as proof that they accomplished their original vision for the project: to remind people what it felt like for city patriarch Leslie C. Brand to live in the 1904 mansion.

PHOTOS: Brand Library & Arts Center renovations

“Words cannot express the excitement I feel about being able to bring back this building… to bring back the spirit of Mr. Brand,” said Cindy Cleary, Glendale’s director of Library, Arts & Culture, during a media tour this week of the library, which reopens to the public on Thursday.

For about a decade, Cleary worked as a librarian in Brand Library, back when shelves crowded every room making it difficult to find a book, and popcorn ceilings hid antique stenciling along the ceilings.

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After its face-lift — which took more than 16 years of planning and fundraising — Cleary hopes the library will become a place for both locals and tourists to enjoy. Renting out the space for events such as weddings is also a possibility, she said.

The exterior of the library now has a new entrance near an art gallery as well as a new plaza fit for outdoor music performances — which are already planned for spring and summer.

As for the interior, the architecture firm that worked on the renovation, Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates wanted to bring back the feel of the mansion when it was used as a home, said Debra Gerod, partner at Gruen.

Most of the library shelves have been moved into one room in the 21,000-square-foot cultural center — both for efficiency and to make more room for community spaces that could be used for reading and gathering.

“Everything was white and fluorescent and lined with book shelves,” Gerod said.

But no more. The rooms are painted in rich blue, purple and other colors and a mixture of original and recreated lighting brightens the interior.

Gruen designers used the solarium, one of the first rooms visitors see after walking past a new circulation desk area near the entrance, as a baseline for the remaining rooms in the 5,000-square-foot library.

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