Ortega Branch Library

Appleton and Wolfard
San Francisco
Building Type:
3223 Ortega Street, San Francisco, California
Current Name:
Ortega Branch Library
Current Use:
Current Condition:
The original Ortega Branch of the San Francisco Public Library was designed as part of the Sunset Community Center which was first conceived in 1946 and later more extensively developed by the renowned architectural firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons. The architects of the Ortega Library were Appleton & Wolfard, who had earlier designed the Parkside Library (1950) and the Marina Library (1953) and created a new branch library concept.

The architects took great care to fit the Ortega Library into the modern architecture of the Sunset Community Center. The buildings were set back from Ortega Street and provided two parking lots in front of the schools. A driveway west of Giannini School allowed access to the playing fields and Ortega Library, which sat on an elevated platform and was also set back from the street. With a school completed in 1954, Wolfard used the same architectural vocabulary of horizontal emphasis of the roof lines and white-washed walls with large floor-to-ceiling windows for the Ortega Library. The roof was flat and had two levels and no overhangs. On the south side, the lower part of the building and pergolas softened the strong cubic volume. The Ortega Library has its merits as an example of a building influenced by the International Style. The Ortega Library also had several of the interior features such as a fire place and a glass case for book exhibits next to the entrance door. Unfortunately, they were removed, maybe after the 1972 fire and vandalism.

Selected bibliography:
Sunset Community Center, San Francisco, Forty-Three Acres Cooperatively Planned, Architectural Record, March 1952, p. 121-131.

Giannini Junior High School is Dedicated, San Francisco Chronicle, 1-27-1955, p.12.

Treib, Marc, An Everyday Modernism:The Houses of William Wurster, 1995, p.190 and 192.

Brandi, Richard, San Francisco’s Modern Branch Libraries Face Rehabilitation, Heritage News, Vol. XXXI, No.4, P.5-7.

Carey & Company, North Beach Branch Library, San Francisco, California, Draft Historic Resources Technical Report, April 30, 2009, p.13-20.

Images courtesy of Bob Pullum.



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