Goodman Library

The Goodman Library is one of the oldest continually occupied library buildings in California. Built between 1901 and 1902 through a generous donation of land and money by local bank magnate George E. Goodman, the library offered a permanent solution to Napa’s struggle to find a home for its free library.

The first library in Napa County was organized at the behest of a local teenager, Charles Burrage, who formed the Excelsior Club, a fundraising organization dedicated to starting a library in Napa City. The parents of the teens also became involved and Napa’s first library association was established September 1, 1870.

Napa’s first library was subscription based, charging a fee for use. It made its home on Brown St. inside the Pioneer Engine Company and consisted of 160 books. The 1878 passage of the Rogers Act allowed incorporated cities and towns to levy taxes in support of free public libraries and in 1885 the city of Napa embarked on just such a mission.

Opened as the Napa Free Library, its first location was above W. W. Thompson’s store on Brown St. In 1888 the collection was moved to a spare room at the Goodman Bank, Napa’s first financial institution. By 1900 both the Goodman Bank and the Library had grown too large to be housed in the same building. The bank’s president George E. Goodman announced his intention to build a permanent home for the library on a lot he owned on First St. Upon the announcement the Napa Daily Journal had this to say:

“The present epoch, upon which we have just entered, may be known as the age of the public library. There is no other influence in this land today which is so widely uplifting. There is no other which promises so much for the future.”

Goodman hired local architect Luther Turton, but this choice almost did not pan out. Turton was seriously injured in a bicycle accident soon after being named as architect and things were touch and go for a while for Napa’s most notable architect.

Schools let out early May 2, 1901 so that local schoolchildren could attend a ceremony for the laying of the building’s cornerstone. The building opened to the public March 6, 1902 and was named the Goodman Library for its benefactor George Goodman. In the building’s original layout library services were restricted to the top floor while the ground floor housed a tea room and a billiard parlor, offering places for locals to recreate. In 1939 the billiard room was converted to a children’s library.

For many years the city’s library services ran in parallel to Napa County’s library system which also hosted a branch in the City of Napa. In 1963 these two systems merged. The children’s library remained at the Goodman while another library a few blocks away on Randolph housed adult collections. Ground was broken on a plan to combine both collections in a large new building in 1973, leaving the Goodman vacant. This new building is today the Napa Main Library on Coombs St.

In 1974 the Goodman’s current resident, the Napa County Historical Society, moved into the building. This, however, required a decree from Napa’s Superior Court. George Goodman’s original deed for the building had stipulated that it must be used for a free public library or the deed would revert to the Goodman heirs. The court’s ruling stated that the Historical Society was operating within the intent of the original deed by providing a library of historic materials. In 2012 Napa County Landmarks, a preservation advocacy group, also moved into the building, sharing space with the Historical Society.

A 2007 retrofit likely spared the Goodman Library from more serious damages in 2014's South Napa Quake, but the large stones that fell from the library's fortress-like crown made dramatic images for the news cameras. Nonetheless, the building was declared non-occupiable by the City of Napa because of the danger of falling stones from the exterior. The Library's collections were mostly salvaged, but library operations moved off-site while repairs were initiated.

Images

Goodman Library

Goodman Library

The fortess like Goodman Library was built in a style known as Richardson Romanesque. It has served as a library since its opening in 1902. Image courtesy of Cinthia Garcia-Chavez. View File Details Page

Early Home of the Napa Free Library

Early Home of the Napa Free Library

Prior to the Goodman Library's construction the Napa Free Library made its home on the top floor of the J. H. Goodman Bank. The bank's founder James H. Goodman was the brother of George E. Goodman, the man who funded the construction of the Goodman Library in 1901. Image: Public Domain. View File Details Page

Luther Turton Architectural Image

Luther Turton Architectural Image

Local architect Luther Turton drew up these plans for the exterior of the Goodman Library in 1901. Image: Public Domain. View File Details Page

Four Images of the Goodman Library.

Four Images of the Goodman Library.

These four colorized early images of the Goodman Library offer a window into the transformation of downtown Napa. Three of the images show a residence adjacent to the library, a building later removed for other commercial structures. On the other side of the library a vacant yard is visible, while in the top left photo this yard has been replaced by the Native Sons of the Golden West Building. Images courtesy of the Napa County Libary. View File Details Page

Plaque Honoring George and Carrie Goodman

Plaque Honoring George and Carrie Goodman

Local banking magnate George E. Goodman originally lent space to the Napa Free Library in his bank building. Later when the bank required the return of the space, Goodman promised to build a permanent home for the library. The resulting structure was named the Goodman Library in his honor. Image courtesy of Cinthia Garcia-Chavez View File Details Page

Goodman Library Damage Report from the 1906 Earthquake

Goodman Library Damage Report from the 1906 Earthquake

These news items submitted by the Goodman Library detail the damages inflicted and cleanup necessary after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake which led to a two month closure for repairs. Image courtesy of the Napa County Library. View File Details Page

Letter Announcing Merger of Goodman Library and Napa County Free Library

Letter Announcing Merger of Goodman Library and Napa County Free Library

The 1963 merger of Napa City's Goodman Library and the Napa County Library system signaled a new use for the historic Goodman building, which was used as a dedicated children's library for the next ten years. Image courtesy of the Napa County Library. View File Details Page

Napa County Library Groundbreaking

Napa County Library Groundbreaking

In 1974 a new facility for the Napa City-County Library was built on Coombs St. to consolidate the adult and juvenile collections on the lot once occupied by the Migliavaca Mansion. The mansion itself was taken off its foundation and moved to its current home on Fourth St. Since the construction of the Napa Main Library, the Goodman has been the home of the Napa County Historical Society. Image courtesy of the Napa County Library. View File Details Page

Letter to Fire Chief About Goodman Library Safety

Letter to Fire Chief About Goodman Library Safety

Safety concerns about the historic building were raised in the early 1970s while the Goodman was being used as the Napa City-County Library's dedicated children's branch library. Seismic retrofits have since corrected the structural problems. Image courtesy of the Napa County Library. View File Details Page

Letter Nominating the Goodman Library for Landmark Status

Letter Nominating the Goodman Library for Landmark Status

The Goodman's 1973 nomination to the National Register of Historic Places helped ensure its continued existence, especially in light of the library's imminent closure due to the construction of a new City-County Library on Coombs St. Image courtesy of the Napa County Historical Society. View File Details Page

Napa County Library

Napa County Library

This building, which once stood on Randolph St., housed the adult collection of the Napa City-County Library. After the Goodman Library merged with the County Library it hosted a children's library. Image Courtesy of the Napa County Library. View File Details Page

Goodman Library Circa 1973<br /><br />

Goodman Library Circa 1973

This image from the height of Napa's redevelopment era is complete with period lighting, meant to match the overall design of First St., which culminated in controversial clocktower structure at Dwight Murray Plaza. Image courtesy of Napa Community Redevelopment Agency. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

John Thill, “Goodman Library,” Explore Napa, accessed June 28, 2017, http://explorenapa.org/items/show/8.

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