Presidio Branch Library re-opens after major remodel, restoration

by Jonathan Farrell

The Presidio Branch Library has been completely restored and renovated much to the delight of everyone involved with the $4.1 million project. A grand re-opening was celebrated on Saturday, March 26.

Built in 1921 as part of steel mogul Andrew Carnegie's philanthropic legacy to establish 1,688 public libraries across the nation, the Presidio Branch is a meeting place for the neighborhood. It was closed in 2009 for repairs as part of the Branch Library Improvement Program.  It is the 17th library completed to date.

 Two architect firms were hired as a team for the interior design, Field Paoli and Joseph Chow & Associates, Inc. They worked together with Page and Turnbull, Inc., which restored the extensive exterior terra cotta facade.   

"Page and Turnbull focused on the terra cotta outside using techniques and materials to match the variations in the facade," said Erin McCloskey, who helped facilitate the remodel.

McCloskey understood how much the building was loved by the community so she engaged them to create "a great process - a really nice transformation."

 The process involved combating deterioration of the glaze, a general cleaning and removal of decades of slime-growth, she said. And, like the work on the interior, Page and Turnbull used only environmentally-friendly materials.

"We are very pleased and thrilled that this classic building was restored inside and out so it now meets the standards and needs of the 21st century," said City Librarian Luis Herrera.  

Herrera said the branch complies with current ADA accessibility and environmental "green" standards. It offers a multiple-use program area for presentations/classes, self-pick up materials area, self-checkout machines and 16 computers are available for patrons' use, including notebooks and laptops.

The branch now includes Wi-Fi access and a designated children's area and teen space with emphasis on interactive learning.

"It is beautiful," said Mindy Linetzky, speaking on behalf of the SF Department of Public Works. "It is much brighter inside. We got what was needed, with all the modern upgraded stuff, without detracting from its historic integrity. It all functions seamlessly. Everything went smoothly and was completed on time and within budget."

Mark Schatz of Field Paoli said: "We are thrilled to be able to restore and refurbish the building to what it once was."

Schatz referred to the Presidio Branch as a gem, saying the 10,205-square-foot library remains the same. He is particularly pleased with the new multi-use space.

"It was kind of creepy downstairs; there was so much clutter and disrepair that had collected over the years," he said.

The general contractor for the project was Roebuck Construction.

"All that is needed now is the finishing touches on the landscape," Schatz said.

The Presidio Branch Library is located at 3150 Sacramento St. It is open six days a week. For more information, call (415) 557-4277 or visit the website at