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Heritage Herald
August Newsletter

President's Column

Hello to our Members and Friends,

Summertime is upon us within the landscape of expanded activities.  I hope you are having lots of cautious fun as our beautiful weather continues.  San Rafael Heritage has been exuberant in its commitments, including the ever-favorite monthly, “This Place Matters” historic celebrations.  And, "Wow!" have we been working hard this year behind-the-scenes focused on two projects: the preservation of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Depot (Whistlestop/Vivalon building) and the City of San Rafael General Plan 2040, just finalized by the City Council.

Northwestern Pacific Depot:
Our favorite historic building, the NWP Depot, is still in jeopardy so let me give you an update.  The latest development concerns decisions to be made on a new transit center location for downtown San Rafael.  The Golden Gate Transit District (GGBHTD) is finalizing its plans for the bus station with the recommended “Move Whistlestop” option, moving part of the depot building across Tamalpais Street to serve as a transit hub. They currently are receiving comments on this plan (Draft EIR SRTC Replacement Project) and will do so at their public meeting on September 14, 2021, 6:00 PM. Here is the link to the meeting.  It is expected that GGBHTD Board will approve a new location by year’s end.  After that, their recommendation will go to the San Rafael City Council for their review.   We are strongly against the “Move Whistlestop” option and continue to work directly with the district.  We recently met with Principal Planner Ray Santiago and Bill Guerin, the director of Public Works for San Rafael, to review and advocate for better treatment of this historic resource that is precious to us all.


General Plan 2040 :
This state-mandated document sets policy for city development and must be updated every 20 years.  I’m proud to say that we have partnered with the City to expand the Historic Preservation portion.  Our Sub-committee members Jeff Rhoads and Leslie Simons have spent hundreds of hours editing to improve the document.  Jeff’s understanding of preservation and restoration incentives and code verbiage and Leslie’s vast knowledge our local historic structures inventory made a powerful duo.  As a result of their work, we expect reduced conflict between preservation and new development in the future. I must say that we have been successful in contributing to two important changes: the expansion of the Downtown Historic District to include the Depot and also an upgrade in its historic status. Congratulations to our hard-working team!

We look forward to seeing you in person some day soon.

Thank you for your support, 

Linzy Klumpp, President
San Rafael Heritage

For further information about the Depot and about the goals of SR Heritage, visit

Why I Love San Rafael Heritage
Cynthia Landecker 
I should love it, I helped start it!  Actually, my husband, Hugo, had been keeping an email list of happy pro-preservation people long before 2015, when we learned that San Rafael’s 1929 Mission Revival could be in danger.
Yes, SRH advocates for individual important historic buildings like the Depot.  We do research and marshal arguments.  We reach out to city officials cooperatively to share our insights.
But why I really love SRH is because our advocacy is based not just on individual historic structures; rather it is our awareness of how those structures are part of a beautiful  whole that is woven together to give us a sense of community.
One can’t fake a sense of community.  It has to be based in reality.  It comes from the range of experiences one has from living in a place that respects its roots, even when dealing with inevitable social and economic changes.
How special San Rafael is!  Look at our gracious old neighborhoods that tell us about life in our past and present.  Look at how the “new” neighborhoods meet new needs.  Look at how beautiful old buildings bring variety and gravitas to our Downtown; at how they let us say:  Yes!  I know this place!  It is mine!
That’s why I love San Rafael  Heritage.

Join Cynthia in "lovin' San Rafael Heritage.
Join/renew your membership now.  

Click Here to Join & Renew!

Andrew Carnegie
Envisioned self-education as a means toward moral distinction.
Gail David-Tellis

The astronomical number of his libraries makes Andrew Carnegie’s story compelling. During his lifetime he gave 1419 grants for 1689 public libraries in the US (and an equal number of grants for libraries throughout the world.) By the time Carnegie died in 1919, 2500 of his libraries had been built or planned. Rightly, he once quipped, “I am in the library manufacturing biz.” Notable among Carnegie’s library behests is our own and (mercifully) still intact city library at the corner of 5th & E.
History of San Rafael Library
From the start, Carnegie was a working man’s activist. Born in Scotland in 1835 to a linen weaver father who lost his livelihood with the advent of the power loom, the family was forced to immigrate to America in 1848 when Andrew was 12. They settled in Alleghany City, today a part of Pittsburg, where Andrew found work as a bobbin boy in a textile factory. With no money for books or schooling, he became a regular at the local library, seeing self education as a means toward and sign of moral distinction. His goal was and would remain a push for the elevation of the working man.
Carnegie’s career marked an extraordinary rise from telegraph worker, to railroad coordinator, to bond salesman, to investor, to re-investor. The Civil War enabled him to establish the steel mill which became the source of his fortune. His positive outlook, accounting acumen, calculated risks, and good mentorship made him, by the age of 35, one of the richest men in America.
In the mid 1870’s, Carnegie gave up day-to-day steel/iron operationand decided to give away the bulk of his wealth. His first gift went to the Scottish town where he was born; there, he established a  library for working men out of ‘the deep debt I owe to the workmen who have contributed so greatly to my success.’
By 1901 Carnegie was besieged with library requests. Applicants had to provide assurance that their site was available and the population willing to raise funds through taxes to support the library. Assurance was also required that the building be used solely as a library.  While no two libraries were exactly alike they were designed with large front windows to let in sunlight, red brick, sandstone or reinforced concrete façades, arcades, columns, and granite or limestone steps leading to a prominent front entrance.  Circulation and reference desks and a reading room were to be located on the ground floor with a children’s room above and a general reading room on the quieter third floor, farthest from the street.
One hundred forty-two Carnegie libraries were built in California with 38 of the 50 California counties granted Carnegie funds.  The San Rafael Carnegie Library was built in 1906. The Carnegie Public Library Fund submitted $25,000 to purchase “one of the choicest parcels in San Rafael.” Local donations were made by 55 people who also contributed an additional $6500. Names of original donors include such local luminaries as McNear, Gerstle, Kent, Boyle, Fugazi, DeYoung, Menzies, and Dubois. Two original donors, William Babcock and George Heazelton, wrote up the deed to the E St. property, stipulating a provision for reversionary interest should the land be used for any purpose besides a library. In other words, the E St, site could be used only for a library or the land would revert to the donor, their heirs or survivors.  This appears to have been a standard clause in all Carnegie funding without which no money would have been made available.  (Also in the Deed: “no stand or place where intoxicating liquor or beer of any kind whatsoever is sold supplied or given shall be established on these premises.)

However in 1972, a State Attorney General opinion said the City could convert the building as long as it provided a comparable library elsewhere. As a result of this ruling, a year later, the SR City Council routinely had on its agenda proposals to demolish the E St. building and either build anew or move library into the old Dollar mansion or adjacent to San Rafael High School, (IJ Oct 2 & 30 1973) These proposals met with serious resistance (IJ April 1974) and the plans were dropped.
The Reid Bros architects, who also designed the Fairmont Hotel, worked with Hoyt Bros, the Santa Rosa contractors, to create a neo-classic architectural style for the San Rafael Library. The building is plastered on the outside with Monterey sandstone and extra white La Farge cement which gives it an ivory effect. 
Quoins of building were fashioned of red-pressed brink; and cornice and trim ornamented in galvanized iron sanded so as to give same effect as stone. The basement housed a large men’s reading room and the first floor accommodated two large reading rooms and a librarian’s room. 

The Library remained in its original form until 1960, when Gordon A Phillips designed the new wing addition. Phillips claimed his addition made the building “one of the most beautiful structures in the city.”  His plan was spearheaded by a library board headed by Robert Menzies, descendant of one of the early patrons.

 Unlike the Carnegie libraries on the East Coast, Northern CA has not been scrupulous about retaining its Carnegies:  Demolished are those in Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Redwood City, San Mateo, and Berkeley.  Towns of Sonoma and Petaluma have retained their Carnegies but use them for other purposes--as a Chamber of Commerce and a Historical Museum, respectively.  The Mill Valley Carnegie at 52 Lovell is still standing but (lucky dogs) now a private residence.  San Anselmo and San Rafael are the only towns to have kept their Carnegies as libraries though San Anselmo houses other entities and San Rafael’s has been much altered by additions.  San Rafael Heritage is devoted to our Carnegie, as we expect you are as well.

With thanks to the Anne T. Kent California Room Librarians at the Marin County Free Library

This Place Matters, A Personal Story
Amy Likover

How does one become a historic preservationist? Many of us had family members who valued historical structures while some of us discovered the value of preservation on our own.  I thought I'd share a wonderfully synocrynous series of events.  When I was 18 and in France learning the language in a work program, I helped restore a historic French silk mill. Recently, a relative of the owner found my name online and asked if I would tell my story to be included in his application for historic preservation of the mill. I shared the San Rafael Heritage website, and "This Place Matters" initiative (associated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation), one way that our organization celebrates local historic structures.  In my contact's French application is a photo of our TPM demo, and on the cover sits the TPM logo translated into French.  In any language, "This Place Matters."

Heritage Events - Calendar

September 21, Steering Committee meeting, details to follow
September 24, This Place Matters Historical Celebration

Carnegie Library
Corner of E St. & 5th Ave.
5 PM Sharp, for 1 hour

Wear orange, and wave one of our signs at passers-by.
October 12, Steering Committee Meeting
November 16, Steering Committee Meeting
December 14 - Tentative Holiday Party

Place TBD

San Rafael Heritage Steering Committee
Linzy Klumpp, President
Leslie Simons, Vice President & Treasurer
Gail David, Secretary
Jim Draper, Webmaster
Stacey Counts, Member
Jeff Rhoads, Member
Cynthia Landecker, President Emerita
Amy Likover, City Liaison,
This Place Matters Coordinator, Newsletter

About San Rafael Heritage

Our mission is to promote the preservation of San Rafael’s historic resources and architecturally significant buildings and to support other historical and preservationist organizations in Marin County.
There's still time to renew your 2021 membership.
Only $20 to help us do what we do for this city!!!! 
Click Here to Join!
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San Rafael Heritage · 23 Scenic Ave. · San Rafael, CA 94901 · USA

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