Coastal Libraries, Half VII – The Mendocino Beacon

The Study Club library

Our previous column bookmarked the history of Mendocino’s many libraries in the section where the venerable Mendocino Study Club has become the patron saint of the city’s bibliophiles.

In 1938, the club unexpectedly needed another location to hold its meetings. Since 1924 they had gathered for business and pleasure on the second floor of the old Templar Hall – which happened to be the location of the city’s first (short-lived) lending library, which is on the south side of Main Street opposite the Hotel Mendocino. When the Mendocino Lumber Company, which owned the building, was taken over by the Union Lumber Company, the club lost use of that space because the building was about to be dismantled.

A solution was found and the club meetings were moved to Kaze Hall, a building built by WH Kelly in 1887 and now owned by his daughter Daisy MacCallum, who was a member and past president of the Study Club. This building on the corner of Ukiah Street and Lansing Street had housed many different endeavors during its half-century lifespan, including two previous incarnations of the library.

The most recent of these was the Boy Scout Library, founded in 1932, the history of which we covered in our previous issue. It turns out that the study club had participated in this earlier venture by buying some books for the troop’s small public library in the early years.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the residents of Mendocino had made numerous requests to find a branch library near them. MacCallum was frustrated with the lack of response and suggested that the club have its own.

In February 1947, members moved into the building and began converting the hall’s narrow bowling alley into a library. They budgeted $ 5 a month for new books and hired Helen Thomsen, Aldine Gorman, Evelyn Larkin, and Alma Mendosa to do it. The Mendocino Study Club Library was officially opened on June 7, 1947 with 62 books from the Girl Scouts’ collection. The library joined the Dollar-a-Month and Detective book clubs and had 650 new books and 50 borrowers by the end of the year.

Three years later, MacCallum decided that the hall needed to be repaired. She wanted the club to have a nice meeting room and a convenient place for the city library.

After extensive renovations, the hall was a marvel of modern conveniences. There were two main entrances, one on Ukiah Street, which led into the great hall or auditorium, and one on Lansing Street, an entrance hall with massive birch doors that led to the Study Club rooms and the beautifully decorated, sunlit library. It was 20 x 27 feet and had over 1,500 books in 1950.

MacCallum also gave the building a new name – Kellieowen Hall (pronounced Kelly-Owen), a combination of MacCallum’s own and her mother’s maiden names. Today the room houses a home furnishings and clothing boutique called “The Study Club”, named by owner Erin Keller-McMillan in honor of the club’s long residence.

Twenty years after its founding in 1947, the Study Club’s library contained 6,300 volumes, donated mainly by the community’s book lovers. The collection included fiction, non-fiction, travel books, mysteries, westerns and many children’s books. Members selflessly gave (and gave) their time to open the library to the public between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays each week.

In the 1970s, the Study Club continued to administer the city library. After Daisy’s death in 1953, ownership of Kellieowen Hall passed to her heirs, and the family eventually sold the property in 1974. The club needed a new home for themselves and the community library again.

Next week’s column takes us to the final (or newest) chapter in Mendocino’s library history.

If you are interested in learning more about the 112 year old Mendocino Study Club, Jean Droz and Janet Barnes have written a wonderful 20 page brochure called “Ladies of the Afternoon”. Copies can be purchased from the Study Club Boutique in Lansing or online at kelleyhousemuseum.org/store/.

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