ADAPTIVE RE-USE: Madera Library | Madera, CA | In-Progress

The Madera County Free Library was designed by Coates and Traver, built in 1917 as the first library solely by County funds without any support from grants. It served as the county’s main library branch for 53 years until 1970. Since 1970, the building has sat vacant and been used for offices and fossil storage for Madera County. In its’ years of vacancy, the building was neglected and now is in need of both structural and cosmetic repairs. The schematic design outlined on the following pages restores a building that not only has historic value to the county and the community, but is now formally recognized as a local landmark. The $3.5 million dollar renovation will bring the building up to structural and accessibility codes and includes cosmetic upgrades as required to accommodate the new program. This icon that the Madera community treasures so dearly is now slated to become a gallery, administrative offices and teaching spaces, reminding us of its prior life as a community hub for arts and learning.

This beautiful Italianate building is defined by arts and crafts detailing, delicate brickwork and a symmetrical facade with repetitive arched windows. The raised first floor indicates a civil presence and allows for natural daylight in the basement. Generous volumes within the main level will be restored, and additional structural upgrades will be included to make the building footprint work for the open concept required by the gallery program. The entry and access to both floors will be reoriented and an elevator will be added to allow better sightlines and connection between the levels.  All of the existing windows, doors and entry points are preserved in the new design. Restoring this landmark to a gallery and education space reminds us of the life it used to have as a community hub and celebrates its history.

Recently, the board of supervisors voted in favor of the library to be listed as a local landmark, which recognizes that the building is significant enough to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If registry is pursued, the proposed design complies with regulations and supports the guidelines for development of historic buildings. New accessible ramps to the main level will complement the symmetrical nature of the facade and be constructed with similar materials and detailing as the original construction. The parking area on the north side of the building will be converted to open space, expanding on the reading garden that is a part of the newer library, and will act as a backdrop for the activities along G Street. This design move links this scope of work to a larger idea, connecting the new gallery to the existing library, courthouse park and the future cultural and performing arts center.