The history of the Memorial Branch Library began in 1923, seven years before the building opened. That year, the land on which the library now stands was purchased by the student body and alumni association of Los Angeles High School, and deeded to the City of Los Angeles in commemoration of twenty alumni who died in World War I. Six years later, the city gave the Los Angeles Public Library the right to establish a branch on the site.
The library formally opened on April 29, 1930. The architectural firm Austin and Ashley designed the building in a picturesque English Tudor style to harmonize with the high school building across Olympic Boulevard, which they also designed. The students of Los Angeles High School commissioned a stained glass window with the names of the twenty alumni and an inscription stating hope for “peace among nations.” The window, designed by the renowned Judson Art Studio, was inspired by those in the Parliament Building of London and was installed in the adult reading room.
Throughout the years, the library maintained strong ties to Los Angeles High School as well as the community at large, with its diverse collection of educational and multicultural materials. In 1990, service was briefly interrupted when the building, designated a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument, closed because it did not meet seismic codes. Soon, however the branch reopened in temporary quarters at 4801 Wilshire Boulevard.
The newly renovated building, opened on July 22, 1996, was designed by the firm of Miralles & Associates, Inc. Bill Judson provided the public art component, which is a stained glass installation at the end of each aisle of the library's main bookstack ranges. Judson is the great-grandson of Walter Horace Judson of the Judson Art Studio.
The project was funded by Proposition #1, the 1989 Library Bond Issue, and the City's Capital Improvement Program.
Photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library Security Pacific National Bank Historic Photograph Collection.