By Michael YEGHIAYAN
The long-awaited renovations to Glendale’s historic Brand Library are nearing completion with a tentative reopening scheduled for early 2014. The approximately $9.5 million project is expected to restore much of the building and increase the library’s capacity to house programming and galleries.
The planned improvements include wide scale seismic upgrades and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, such as increased accessibility and parking, and reorganization of library materials and collections. Additionally, the renovations will restore the interior of the historic mansion.
Gallery director Annette Vartanian expects the changes to the gallery to create a more active space that will draw in public interest.
“We want to have a year of events, programs and installations in the newly remodeled space,” said Vartanian. “My goal is to make the space more hip, to make it a regional destination.”
Construction to the recital hall will improve the accessibility of the space for public events with new chairs, paint and lighting. The adjacent skylight gallery will also feature newly refurbished walls and will be used for showing art exhibitions.
Part of the library’s redesign will also include a consolidation of its exhibits, with a shared desk for the art and music specialists to be set up in the solarium.
In the mansion itself, artists are also recreating the original stenciling on the ceiling to restore the historical atmosphere of the 109-year-old building. The dining room will be used as a reading room, offering a very close representation to the original experience from the early days of the mansion.
“We want to make this as much like a home as possible,” said Library Services administrator Carolyn Flemming.
Over the course of the restoration process, the previously unknown identity of the artist responsible for the original ceiling designs may have been revealed as Giovanni Smeraldi. One of the artists from the historic renovation company Spectra worked on some of Smeraldi’s work at the Biltmore Hotel and noticed similar technique and identical brush strokes.
Smeraldi worked on a number of projects in Southern California during the early part of the 20th century including the Santa Monica courthouse and USC’s Doheny Memorial Library.
Renovation efforts in the mansion’s parlor also provided excitement for the restoration team with the discovery of a hidden door in the corner of the room. The small section of the room housed a pedestal with the family’s initials carved down the front.
“Mrs. Brand boarded it up for some reason,” said Flemming. “The discovery came as a complete surprise.”
The library will remain closed to the public until construction is complete. A selected portion of the library’s materials is currently being held at Glendale’s Central Library.