Charles S. Greene Library (former) 1

The Charles S. Greene Library (aka the Oakland Carnegie public library) was the second Main Library in the City of Oakland, California, from 1902 to 1951. Over the years this library has served as the Main Library, a branch library, and administrative offices. Currently the Charles S. Greene Library building is the home of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO). Dedicated in 1902 as the Oakland Public Library, this was the first Carnegie Library built in the city. The Italian Renaissance style building was designed by architects Bliss and Faville, with A.E. Barrett of San Francisco as the contractor.

This elegant building was built to replace the first Main Library which was a wooden (1878 to 1902) located on the site of the present day Oakland City Hall. The building was designed by Walter Bliss (1872–1956) and William Faville (1866–1947), California-born architects who had trained with McKim, Mead & White of New York. 3

As overcrowding occurred in the library, attempts to raise funds for an expansion plan through a bond measure failed in the election of 1933. 2

In 1951 the library was renamed in honor of Charles S. Greene, the third city librarian of the Oakland Free Library from 1899 to 1926. Before accepting the position, Mr. Greene was the editor of the Overland Monthly and a poet. The library operated as the Charles S. Greene Library from 1951 to 1971.

Under Greene's leadership, the City obtained a Carnegie grant in the amount of $50,000 for construction of the library. The Ebell Society women members raised an additional $20,000 to purchase the land, and hired Coxhead & Coxhead to design the Children's Room. The City of Oakland funded the heating, lighting, shelving and furniture.

Greene believed in the importance of art in public spaces so murals by Marion Pope Holden and Arthur Mathews were hung in the library. Although some of the murals remain, other have been placed in the Oakland Museum.

Charles S. Greene also served on various statewide library positions, including as a California State Library Trustee for many years.

Damaged during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the building sat vacant for several years. After extensive renovations and earthquake retrofitting, "the building reopened in February 2002, as the African American Museum and Library at Oakland. It will serve as the premier reference and research repository on African American history and life on the West Coast." 1

On April 14, 1981 the Charles S. Greene Library was designated Oakland Landmark #48, under Zoning Case #LM81-12, and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places #83001173 in 1983.


659 - 14th Street, Oakland, California 94612

Links and References

  1. African American Museum Library at Oakland, Alameda County Carnegie Libraries of California
  2. City of Oakland, Public Library, Main Library #2, Downtown, Oakland, CA Pacific Coast Architecture Database (PCAD)
  3. History surrounds visitors to Oakland's African American Museum and Library Annalee Allen, Oakland Tribune 11/24/2013