June 1, 2018

Preservation Personals: Get Literary at This Former Public Library in California's Central Valley

  • By: Mikayla Raymond

I was constructed by philanthropist Elizabeth Kraft in memory of her husband, Herbert, in 1909. The Krafts tirelessly dedicated themselves to improving the Red Bluff community, here in California’s Central Valley. A woman of fortitude, Elizabeth was directly involved in overseeing my construction based on a design by noted architect Franklin Pierce Burnham, whom you may know for designing the Georgia State Capitol. The Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 delayed construction by one year, but some of my decorative stonework had already been engraved with the year 1908, including in the pediment above my main entrance. Rather than re-carving these elements, I prefer to retain just a bit of historical mysteriousness.

I served my community as the Kraft Memorial Free Library for 78 years, until 1987. I was then purchased by a family in 1997, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Since 2006, I have undergone significant restoration to my interior spaces and my surrounding garden. I am now used as a home and as a home décor store. I’m zoned for both residential or commercial use, and feature large, flexible spaces that could satisfy a myriad of uses!

Today, I stand at the corner of Hickory and Jefferson streets, and help anchor Red Bluff’s Victorian neighborhood. I’m built in a highly decorative Neoclassical or Classical Revival style, which was popular for large public buildings in my time. Classical elements such as my pediment supported by columns and my rotunda epitomize this style, while the brick on my exterior suggests my utilitarian nature.

I’m a hulking 5,800 square feet, with seven rooms, three half baths, and three fireplaces. My interior features a grand staircase leading up to my main floor, and a rotunda that includes an enormous stained glass window. I’m surrounded by a beautiful garden on a third of an acre. It has a large lawn and a wide variety of plants, including trees as old as I am (if not older)!

Learn more about me here.

My exterior, with two of my dogs running down the grand stairs.

photo by: Katherine Gleim

Red Bluff, CA, 96080.

My stained glass lends an air of importance.

photo by: Katherine Gleim

My rotunda is supported by columns and features a massive stained glass window at the top.

My vibrant garden.

photo by: Katherine Gleim

My 0.33 acres are lushly landscaped, and take full advantage of Red Bluff's Mediterranean climate.

Mikayla Raymond is a proud preservationist and editorial intern at the National Trust. She lives for public parks, weird art, and women’s history.


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