The Miller Avenue Branch Library was a Spanish Colonial Revival style library in the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland, California which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as a Oakland City Landmark. Originally known as the Oakland Free Library 23rd Avenue Branch, it was later renamed in 1966 the Ina Coolbrith Branch (named in honor of Oakland's first librarian). In 1973 the library was again renamed the Latin American Branch, though city building permits from 1980 refer to the building as the 'Miller Library.'
The Miller Avenue branch was the second of four libraries which were built with $140,000 in funds from a Carnegie Foundation grant obtained by Oakland City Librarian Charles Greene. Greene had previously been granted funds from the same Carnegie endowment to construct the Main Library building, which in 1904 was built at 14th Street near the City Hall building and is now the home of the African American Museum and Library of Oakland.
The Carnegie Foundation wanted to make books available to new immigrants and at the time, both the San Antonio and Fruitvale districts were largely populated by German, Italian and Portuguese American immigrants working in the canneries at the estuary and the cotton mills.
Designed by local architects Charles W. Dickey and John J. Donovan, the library cost $31,000 to construct and "building permit #46090 was issued for the 23rd Avenue branch on July 20, 1917" 1 Listed contractors of record were Nielsen & Bertelsen, and the elaborate Spanish Colonial branch library was dedicated on March 14, 1918. 3
On November 4, 1980 the Miller Avenue Branch Library, in a group with the four Carnegie branch libraries, was designated an Oakland City Landmark.
The library was unused and boarded up by the city after being identified as needing major seismic upgrades in the 1990's. The City of Oakland had no money to perform the necessary upgrades and the library had been vacant for years. The yard of the Miller Avenue Branch Library was the site of the Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez, an open-air volunteer library and community garden, which occupied the building for a time, but was evicted by the city.
On February 23, 2018 a fire started in the building and quickly spread. The building will likely be a total loss and the lot sold by the city. 2
1449 Miller Avenue
Links and References
Short history of Oakland’s Miller Avenue Library Fragmentary Evidence
New Branch of Library to Open Oakland Tribune March 14, 1918
Oakland's Landmarks Board turns attention to now-shuttered Miller Avenue Branch library by Annalee Allen Oakland Tribune March 15, 2013
Oakland Loses a Part of Its History Oakland Magazine May 2018