Visiting the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

A few years ago I read the fantastic book, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Hugette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, and was surprised to find the Clark family played a significant role in Los Angeles history. One day my family and I traveled around the city searching for their enduring legacy and I ended up writing one of my favorite posts (you can read it here). As successful as our day was there was one location we couldn’t get into – the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

At the time, the library was only open during the week and we happened to visit on a Saturday. Soon after it closed indefinitely for refurbishment and it seemed like I would never get inside. Luckily, that wasn’t the case and today it celebrated its Grand Re-opening. Of course, I attended.

William Andrews Clark, Jr. was son of William Andrews Clark, a leading industrialist of the 20th century who made his fortune in copper mining. A lawyer by trade he made his home in Los Angeles and made significant contributions to its cultural scene. He founded the LA Philharmonic, funded the construction of the Hollywood Bowl and amassed an incredible collection of rare books and manuscripts. In fact, this collection was so important to him that he built a separate library for it on his estate in the West Adams neighborhood. Upon his death in 1934, he donated the collection to UCLA and it remains in their hands to this day.

Designed by Robert D. Farquhar, the library was completed in 1926 and is a stunning structure.

As soon as I entered I realized I was in place unlike any other in Los Angeles. With marble flooring and colorful frescoes the entry hall evokes the Baroque palaces of Europe.

The grandeur only increased as I entered the main drawing room and was surrounded by intricately carved walls and an impressive trompe l’oeil ceiling.

Despite the impressiveness of these rooms my heart belongs to the actual library.

If I had all the money in the world I would want a two story library of my very own. I don’t need all the rare books and manuscripts – I’m happy to fill the shelves with my Hollywood memoirs – but two stories filled with bookshelf after bookshelf is my idea of heaven.

One unique aspect of the Clark library bookshelves is that they’re made of copper instead of wood. Not only is this an homage to William Clark’s family but it helps create a magical atmosphere when the hour is just right.

After visiting the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library my heart was filled with as much warmth as that beautiful spot during the golden hour.  Los Angeles never ceases to amaze me with the many wonders it contains. All we have to do is look for them.



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