CSL in the Capitol

"The Library has a large dome-shaped room off the corridor of this [second] floor in the building and has been assigned rooms on every floor in the building and occupies about 20% of floor space of the entire Capitol." – Secretary of State Charles F. Curry, 1910

The California State Library found a permanent home in the newly constructed Capitol building in 1869. The Library occupied the second and third floors of the semicircular apse, which had a magnificent, columned interior, radiating out from a centrally planned axis. It would remain in this location until 1928, when the growing collection found a new home across 10th Street in the recently completed Library and Courts Building.

Interior view of the original State Library in the apse of the Capitol, 1904
Interior view of the original State Library in the apse of the Capitol, 1904.

Originally established to serve the needs of the California Legislature in 1850, it continued to build its collections. From 1900 on, the Library opened its collections to the general public, thereby greatly expanding its role. Furthermore, the operations of the State Library had been transferred from the Secretary of State and placed under the direction of an appointed State Librarian.

Interior of the Tulare County Library branch at the African American township of Allensworth, c.1910s
Interior of the Tulare County Library branch at the African American township of Allensworth, c.1910s.


Cramped interior of the State Library in the apse of the State Capitol, 1904
Cramped interior of the State Library in the apse of the State Capitol, 1904.


State Librarian James Gillis seated at his desk in the Capitol, c. 1904
State Librarian James Gillis seated at his desk in the Capitol, c. 1904.


Interior of the library reading room at Army Camp Kearny, San Diego, c.1918
Interior of the library reading room at Army Camp Kearny, San Diego, c.1918.


Imperial County Library branch at Niland which was housed in second boxcar from the right, c.1920s
Imperial County Library branch at Niland which was housed in second boxcar from the right, c.1920s.


Billboard acknowledging the future home of the new State Library, c.1920s
Billboard acknowledging the future home of the new State Library, c.1920s.


Architect’s drawing of the grill work for the entrance to the State Library in the Capitol, c.1892
Architect’s drawing of the grill work for the entrance to the State Library in the Capitol, c.1892.