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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Landmark structure

Kandis Carper / Staff writer

The East Side Branch Library, built in 1913 at First and Altamont, has been added to the Spokane Register of Historic Places. The Spokane City Council approved the listing in June, based on the contributions to public education and years of service provided the East Central community, and the building’s architectural style. The building operated as a library from 1913 to 1979. In 1982 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure was designed by prominent Spokane architect Albert Held and was built by Spokane contractor Galbraith & Sons with funds provided by Andrew Carnegie.

“The East Side Branch Library is historically significant for its association with Andrew Carnegie, the world-renowned philanthropist whose generosity resulted in the construction of hundreds of public libraries in the United States and in English-speaking countries throughout the world,” Linda Yeomans wrote in a historical nomination report.

The East Side Branch Library is architecturally significant as an excellent example of the “Carnegie library,” as described in the National Register Multiple Property Documentation.

To qualify as this type of building, grants from the Carnegie Foundation must have been used to finance the building’s construction. and the building must contain characteristics of a Carnegie library.

The library meets the criteria because it is a brick, one-story rectangular building above a daylight basement with a hip roof, and it has elements of classical architecture, such as pediments, columns and cornices.

The building also has its principal entrance in the center of the longer side with symmetrical arrangement of larger windows in front and smaller windows in the back. Exterior stairs lead from ground level to the main public area.

According to the nomination report, the only element missing is entrance lamps, which were removed in the 1970s.

The roof is covered with red-glazed, barrel-shaped ceramic tile. The building has 18-inch-thick brick walls and two fireplaces.

The Spokane Public Library’s annual report in 1914 reported that “the branch reading rooms” were “usually filled evenings with students and people attracted by the excellence of the periodical lists.”

The report also noted that the building was used for community meetings of various groups.

In 1979 the library’s books and materials were moved to the East Central Community Center and the building became “surplus property” and was put up for sale.

James and Jan Frank and Richard and Nancy Mason bought the building in 1981 for $91,000. The property was sold with an architectural façade easement, written as a protective covenant that runs in perpetuity with the property, protecting the building’s original exterior façade design, materials and workmanship.

The building has been used as office space since 1981.

In 1996 Roger and Cathy Ramm purchased the property for $215,000. Gerald and Carol Santantonio purchased the building in May 2003 for $325,000, and Carol’s advertising company, Kelly/Brady Direct Inc., is headquartered there.

“I believe in preserving our architectural treasures and to keep someone from painting the building purple,” said Carol Santantonio.

While the interior of the library has changed over the years, there are still elements from bygone years.

The boardroom and office lobby have fireplaces. Also, the vestibule with hexagonal ceramic tile remains, as do the oak crown molding, doors and other woodwork; oak casement windows, fir floors and the original stairwell from the first floor to the basement.

The Santantonios’ residence, a Kirtland Cutter-designed home on West Point Road, known as the Knight house, was named to the Spokane Register of Historic Places in 1997.

The Santantonios are members of Spokane Preservation Advocates.