Civic Structures: June 2008 Archives

Fairmount Park making a comeback

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Main entrance

Fairmount Lake

Lake Evans

Plenty of shade

Arguably Riverside's most interesting park, Fairmount is staging a comeback. After several years of neglect, the city recently completed various park improvements, including new gazebos, picnic tables and playgrounds as well as refurbishing of the boathouse, itself a 1995 replica of the original 1911 boathouse.

One of the most expensive improvements was the dredging of both Lake Evans and Fairmount Lake, which were last dredged in 1983. The city spent $2 million to clean and remove 50,000 tons of silt that accumulated at the bottom of the lakes. Both lakes were then restocked with two tons of catfish.

Fairmount Park originated in smaller form as early as 1898 on land near the Santa Ana River on the northwest edge of downtown. But it wasn't until land donated in 1903 by longtime Riverside businessman S.C. Evans Sr. in which the park of today began to take shape. Evans' donation allowed for the creation of the park's first lake -- Fairmount Lake.

A major expansion in 1911 saw elements from an Olmsted Brothers plan added, including a boathouse and Japanese-style lotus garden with arched, wooden bridges (later replaced with cement versions). Although at least two bridges remain, damaging floods over the years have wiped out the lotus garden. It's too bad the city found neither the money -- nor the will -- to replace it.

A 1924 expansion added another 60 acres, this time donated from S.C. Evans Jr. The additional acreage allowed for the creation of the park's second lake -- the much larger Lake Evans. Future expansions would eventually give the 180-acre park its current landscape that now includes a third lake.

Hailing from a different era, Fairmount is chock full of old-school park features, including forest-like trees and foliage, a bandshell, rose garden, lawn bowling club, boathouse, and of course, the three rustic lakes. At various times, the park also sported a small petting zoo and amusement area -- with a carousel (1947) and later a tiny roller coaster -- but these have long-since been removed.

Today, the park is seeing a rebirth thanks in part to the recent improvements funded from the city's $1.8 billion, 5-year Riverside Renaissance plan.

We're glad to see the city's flagship park regaining back some of its former glory.


Park map
New paths

Rose Garden
Leisure time

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson)

Committee finalizes expansion guidelines

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Central Library

Riverside Metropolitan Museum

After several months of public meetings, the 22-member Library/Museum task force held its final session this past week, producing what it calls "guiding principles" for the planned expansions of downtown's Central Library and Riverside Metropolitan Museum. The key recommendation calls for separate expansions of both facilities, with enough space for each to meet their needs.

As part of the recommendation, the panel urged the city to expedite funding and approval of the expansions and also emphasized its desire to see the Chinese Memorial Pavilion remain in its current spot, which we're glad to see.

The city's Board of Library Trustees has already endorsed the guidelines with the museum board set to vote on the matter July 8. The guidelines will then go before the City Council for review on August 12.

Recently, two opposing viewpoints concerning the existing library building appeared in The Press-Enterprise (one | two). Though both articles make good points, it should be no surprise that we agree with Steve Lech in that demolishing the current building would be akin to demolishing the original Carnegie back in 1965. It shouldn't have been done then -- and it shouldn't be done now.


Sources: The Press-Enterprise

A City Council-appointed task force assigned with revising Riverside's library-museum expansion plans issued its draft recommendation this week calling for separate expansions for both institutions. The recommendation, which would reverse the city's earlier combined expansion proposal, comes after several recent public meetings on the issue.

Central Library

Riverside Metropolitan Museum

Museum exhibit

Most critics of the original $25 million proposal -- part of the city's Riverside Renaissance Initiative -- feared joint expansion would shortchange both entities. That plan called for an approximately 35,000 sq. ft. expansion: 9,500 sq. ft. children's section, 10,500 sq. ft. community/office space (with 250-seat auditorium) and up to 15,000 sq. ft. exhibition/flex space. Drawn up by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, Inc., the plan expanded outward in front of the current library, including displacement of the Chinese Memorial Pavilion.

Since then, several community members, residents and various civic groups have voiced opinions on the matter. The "Committee to Renew the Library" and "The Raincross Group" have both considered plans of their own, the latter recommending a 60,000 sq. ft. library expansion (basement plus two stories) in front of the current library (sparing the Chinese Pavilion); and, a 30,000 sq. ft. museum expansion (3 stories) behind the current museum. Estimates for both expansions are $38 million -- approximately $13 million more than the original joint-expansion project.

The task force's draft recommendation of separate expansions now moves ahead for a public hearing scheduled for June 18, after which a final task force meeting on June 25 will address any changes before forwarding the panel's final recommendation to the City Council (scheduled for August 12).

Whatever the final outcome, we agree both institutions should remain downtown at their current locations. Likewise, we'd prefer to see neither building's architecture severely compromised with any future expansions. Though many may say the current architecture of the library does not fit its immediate surroundings, we believe it has its own architectural merits (one | two | three) on which to stand, and thus, should not be significantly altered.


Sources: The Press-Enterprise

Arlington Branch Library reopens

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After nearly 2 years of construction and renovation, Riverside's Arlington Branch Library reopened to the public this past week following an 8,000 sq. ft. addition to the 99-year-old building. The new wing nearly triples the size of the current library to 13,000 sq. ft.

Original building

New addition

Shades of the past

The new addition mimics the original building's Greek Revival styling, which was designed by local architect Seeley L. Pillar. When it first opened on June 1, 1909, the new library was the city's first "branch" library and was built to serve the southern and western portions of Riverside.

Though not technically a Carnegie library, the city built the Arlington Branch after obtaining $7,500 from the Carnegie Foundation for expanding the downtown library. The grant used for the downtown expansion freed up $7,500 for the new Arlington library, which also included a fire station attached to the back of the building.

A year-long, $8,000 renovation began in 1927 to upgrade the library after it was declared structurally unsafe, causing a temporary closure. Subsequent renovations and expansions over the years included an extensive rehab during the late 1950s; the re-use of the space housing the former fire station in 1968 (which had relocated to a separate building about a quarter-mile east on Magnolia Avenue in 1938); and another renovation in 1996.

Today, the new wing houses the majority of the library's collection of 45,000 titles. An expanded children's section, lower shelving heights and several seating areas help give the new addition a bookstore atmosphere, while natural lighting provided by expansive windows and skylights gives the library an open-air feel. Thirty-four computers and 2 self-checkout stations round out the expanded facility.

The former main room in the original building is now a 110-seat community room. Historic photographs of Riverside's past act as translucent shades on the windows that surround the room.

In a nod to the building's past, the library's new entrance uses the old stable building from the days when the structure housed the fire station. Located in this new foyer are two glass cases housing both fire- and citrus-related memorabilia from the city's past.

The reopening of the Arlington Branch is the latest improvement made to the city's 7-branch library system, which is in the midst of its largest building and renovation campaign in its history. Other projects include the soon-to-open Orange Terrace Branch Library, the relocation of the Marcy Branch Library and the expansion/renovation of downtown's Central Library. It also comes on the heels of the recent expansions/renovations at the Eastside Library/Cybrary and the La Sierra Branch Library as well as the opening of the Casa Blanca Library & Family Learning Center a few years back.



Former stable
New foyer
New wing

Computer stations
Stylish seating
Community room

Sources: City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, The Press-Enterprise, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson), "Arlington" (Georgia Gordon Sercl)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Civic Structures category from June 2008.

Civic Structures: May 2008 is the previous archive.

Civic Structures: August 2008 is the next archive.

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