Central Library Project Comes Into Focus and Other Pasadena Heritage Updates

By Sue Mossman

Executive Director, Pasadena Heritage

Much progress has been made in designing improvements for the Central Library, including critically needed seismic strengthening, improved ADA access and other health and safety improvements. At the same time, the future needs of the library have been studied so that it can better serve Pasadenans for the next 100 years.

Designed by noted local architect Myron Hunt, the Central Library was the first of the three Civic Center buildings to be completed in 1925. Hunt’s original design and construction have held up remarkably well for 100 years, but the building is vulnerable to significant damage in a major seismic event, so it is past time to provide reinforcement to keep it and its patrons safe.

It will be a costly project, but the bulk of the money will be used for the seismic work, including new sheer walls to replace unreinforced masonry walls throughout the structure. Pasadena Heritage supports this project and has a representative serving on the Technical Oversight Committee that has reviewed the project every step of the way. Multiple public outreach sessions have been held to keep the public informed, and we anticipate that the project will go to the Design Commission and City Council for final approvals soon. Funding will be generated through a bond issue on the November ballot.

Fowler Garden is now part of Maranatha. Maranatha High School purchased the historic Fowler Garden property some time ago and is revising its Campus Master Plan to incorporate the garden. For many years the garden was public open space, but it is now under private control of the school. Its plans for using the garden and proposed changes to the space have raised questions from neighbors living close to the school and from Pasadena Heritage. As an eligible historic resource, the garden needs to be treated with respect and care, and its character-defining features protected.

Changes are possible as long as they don’t impact the original design. Those living next door to the garden have expressed concerns about the number of activities and events proposed. We hope that Maranatha and its neighborhoods can work out a satisfactory schedule that provides for new uses while respecting the privacy and quality of life for the residents.

PCC plans multiple demolitions. Pasadena City College is updating its Facilities Master Plan and projects the demolition of a number of buildings on campus. Pasadena Heritage has raised questions about at least two of the buildings slated for demolition because we believe that the L Building and Harbeson Hall are eligible historic resources and their retention and reuse should be considered instead. We are currently investigating the proposed plans and visiting the buildings in question and are interested in encouraging alternatives.

Retention and adaptive reuse are certainly more ecologically beneficial and may be less costly. We look forward to having more information and plan to be involved as this planning continues.

Retirement dinner set for Sue Mossman. Pasadena Heritage’s Executive Director Sue Mossman will retire this Spring after 30 years as executive director and 45 years on staff. Sue’s leadership has been essential to the organization’s growth and effectiveness, and she has has many preservation success stories to her credit.

A retirement dinner will be held in her honor on Saturday, May 4, at the historic Athenaeum on the Caltech campus, one of Pasadena’s most beautiful and well-preserved historic buildings. Sponsorship opportunities are now available for this special tribute event, and invitations were mailed in early April.

Note: A version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association newsletter.