Public Library, c1902

Before the Library Association of Portland opened their new Central Library on SW 10th in 1913, the library was in this building on SW Stark between Broadway and Park Ave. This circa 1902 view looks southwest at Stark and Broadway. In later years the Liberty Theater would be on this site but the Bank of California occupies this block now.

(City of Portland Archives)

10 thoughts on “Public Library, c1902

  1. What a beautiful building! I remember when the Bank of Califonia was built but don’t remember this fine building.

  2. Another great link is here:

    The 7th, 28th, and 33rd photos are of the same building, but with different theater names. The Liberty started as the Orpheum, which moved up the street to the block now inhabited by Nordstroms (the information in the link for the 7th picture is incorrect). It then was known as the Music Box (which eventually moved next door to the old Fox theater) and finally as the Liberty theater.

  3. Eric, the library was a separate entity called the Library Association of Portland until 1990, when it was transferred to the ownership of the building and collection to Multnomah County.

  4. Douge is right, the Multnomah County Library was once a private entity; it was founded in 1864 as a private subscription library, and became a free public library in 1902. But much more detail on the library’s history is on its website at:

    And, there is a treasure trove of historic photos of library buildings and operations on the library’s flickr site:

  5. Mary Frances Isom was the first librarian for the Portland Central Library and was head librarian from 1902 until her death in 1920, and under her leadershlp it moved from a private to public institution. She had a house at the coast in Neah-Kah-Nie (next to Manzanita) that she willed to the Library Association, now called “The Library Cottage”. Via a lottery system, library employees now use the 1913 cottage.

  6. The downtown library used to have an extensive record collection you could check out, and at one time, Multnomah county libraries also had art prints you could check out and hang on your wall for a month or so. I don’t know if they still do that. If they don’t, they should!

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