The relocated Marcy Branch occupies the bottom floor of an 18,000 sq. ft., two-story building on Magnolia Avenue (with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services taking the top floor). The building was built in 1972 to house district offices for the Automobile Club of Southern California. The architect was well-known Riverside architectural firm, Ruhnau, Evans & Steinmann.The Auto Club remained in the building until 1998 when a new office building opened at 3700 Central Avenue on the site of the former Southern California Gas Co. district headquarters. (Ironically, the new Auto Club building sits directly across the street from the old Marcy Branch library.) Prior to becoming the new Marcy Branch, the former Auto Club building housed offices for Realty Executives (until about 2009).
Completely refurbished to the tune of $7.9 million, the new Marcy Branch comprises 9,000 square feet of space (about double the previous location). The roomier location includes over 30 computer stations, WiFi access, a study room, self-checkout stations — and indoor restrooms (which were located outside at the old branch).The expanded children’s section contains an environmentally-themed mural, a story-time gathering area, children’s computers, and a life-size “interactive tree” that houses a memory game and puppet theater.
Still unclear is the fate of the former Marcy Branch, which originally began in 1951 as the Magnolia Center Branch located at Palm School (now Riverside Adult School).In 1958, the branch moved into a newly-constructed building on Central Avenue. The branch was renamed Marcy Branch in honor of longtime Riverside resident Charles F. Marcy whose bequest helped provide funding for the building. Its fanciful, mid-century design by noted Riverside architect Herman O. Ruhnau (of Ruhnau, Evans & Steinmann) includes elements of post and beam construction that was popular during the 1950s and 1960s.
At least one proposal calls for the nearby Lucky Greek fast food restaurant — impacted by the Magnolia Avenue railroad underpass project — to take up residence in the old Central Avenue library building.
Reuse plans may have stalled recently, but whatever the outcome, we hope a viable reuse — one that doesn’t overly damage the original character of the mid-century building — can be found for the old Marcy Branch.
- RaincrossSquare.com – Relocation of Marcy Branch likely (May 2008)
B&W photo of Marcy Library courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke
Sources: The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library