Those of us who love books often see libraries as sacred spaces, places that replenish our souls, expand our knowledge, and welcome everyone. The building, home to the Del Mar Library, was created as an actual sacred space, the St. James Catholic Church.
Designed by architect John Austin, who also designed the old Del Mar Hotel, the church was constructed in 1914 in the popular Craftsman style. When the congregation moved to a larger site in Solana Beach in 1966, the building passed through a series of ownerships and uses including restaurants, an art school, and commercial offices, until the City of Del Mar bought the building and converted it to a library.
THE DEL MAR BRANCH:
The Del Mar branch of the San Diego County Library system began with a petition to the County Board of Supervisors a year after the county system was established in 1913. The library was created in the private home of its first librarian, Mrs. E.J. Hindle, then over the next 60 years moved to a store, then the home of writer Lee Shippey, then to a small room in the Jefferson Arcade, then a building at 317 14th St. and then a space in the old Del Mar Plaza. In 1977, the library was moved to a temporary location in a trailer in the old City Hall parking lot, where it remained for the next 19 years.
In 1982, an enthusiastic group of local volunteers formed an association to advocate for building a new branch of the Del Mar Library to replace the temporary location housed in a trailer next to City Hall. In the 1990s, around the same time that Del Mar voters rejected a plan to build a new, 8,000-square-foot library, the Friends discovered the old church building on the corner of the Coast Highway and 13th Street was for sale.
A Friends fundraising effort began and Del Mar residents who had rejected the first plan for a permanent home for the library got on board. The Friends raised more than $350,000, which was supplemented with funds from a local development and a city bond issue to obtain the $1 million required for the City of Del Mar to buy and begin remodeling the building in 1993.
Remodeling was completed in 1996 and the library finally moved into its new permanent home. A year later, the renovation of the building - designed by architect Joe Nelle - was honored with an Orchid Award for Historic Preservation from the San Diego Architectural Foundation.