WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT
Reader Friendly Fremont
COURTESY OF SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Then: After years of being housed in "reading rooms," the Fremont Public Library moved into its new "Italian farmhouse" at 731 N. 35th St. in 1921.
Now: From the street, the landmark structure is deceptively small. Inside are 6,840 useful square feet that were recently reopened after renovation.
IN THE LATE 1970s I spent many delightful afternoons in the basement of the Fremont Public Library paging through the dry and often chipped pages of The Seattle Times. The Seattle Public Library's early bound copies were then stored in that sanctum when it had a musty charm that complemented the venerable ink that was inevitably transferred to my fingers.
Now this still charming place is so fresh and clean that I think I must wash my hands before visiting it. In recent years the Fremont library has been scrubbed and scrubbed again. In 1987 it got an eight-month makeover after voters approved a bond issue to renovate the city's Carnegie branch libraries. And as witness that we are still a "reading city," the Fremont library reopened this past April 16 after another upgrade — this one a gift from voters in the 1998 "Libraries for All" bond issue.
Although Fremont got Seattle's first branch library in 1903, it did not move into this "Italian farmhouse" — as its architect, Donald Huntington, liked to call it — until it opened in the summer of 1921.
As most of Seattle has learned, Fremont is the "center of the universe." Inevitably, Fremont history has brought it this distinction, and this Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., the fresh Fremont library will celebrate it. At 3 o'clock the newly formed Fremont Historical Society will give a mildly eccentric slide show on Fremont history, interpreted by a panel composed of three kernels (nuts, that is) of the Fremont cognoscenti — Carol Tobin, Roger Wheeler and Heather McAuliffe — and one outsider, yours truly.
McAuliffe, the new society's founder, encourages anyone with Fremontian interests to attend, tour the library and join the show and/or the society.
Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.
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