The East Lake Branch of the
Birmingham Public Library began its life in a 25x50 foot room on the second
floor of the East Lake Fire Station in 1914. In 1926, the land was purchased at
#5 Oporto Madrid
Sidney P. King at a cost of $10,000 for a new library building.
The Miller and Martin
Architectural Firm was chosen to design a building along the same lines as the
"new" Linn-Henley Research Library which opened in 1927. The completed East Lake Branch Library was a two-story, Georgian Revival
structure with 8,000 square feet of usable space. It was built using the same stone and buff bricks as the current East
Lake Fire Station next door. It
opened its doors in 1928 close to three elementary schools (Barrett, Robinson
and Kirby), Woodlawn High School
and Howard College
(now Samford University located in Homewood).
In 1937, the East Lake Branch was
chosen to house the acclaimed Storybook
Mural by Birmingham artist Carrie Hill. It was
commissioned by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA paid for the time and work of the artist while the Library paid
for the canvas and paint. The 27'x
9' foot canvas mural depicts such characters as Little Red Riding Hood, Little
Miss Muffett, Mother Goose and the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. The characters appear
to be stepping out of a storybook and walking down a path similar to the "yellow
brick road" in the Wizard of Oz. The
artist, Carrie Hill, used her own likeness for the face of Mother Goose.
In the mid 1970's, fire and water
damaged the 1937 mural located in the Children's Reading Room. John Bertalan, a Birmingham art conservator, restored the mural in 1993.
Due to changes in the services
that the library provided, and the lack of space on the first floor of the
building, a $450,000 renovation took place in 1996-97. The branch reopened its doors on Monday, February 10, 1997,
and the public found that the stack area (where older books were kept) had been
replaced with a staff office and a work area encased behind glass. It also included a ceramic tile area surrounding the oak circulation desk
and a new color scheme for the walls, deriving its colors from the mural. The original oak furniture had been refinished and raised oak work
stations had been added.
The most recent renovation of the
East Lake Branch includes the installation of an elevator and foyer, additional
storage space, new restrooms, an exterior emergency stairwell, as well as a much
anticipated revamped auditorium and stage which have both been unused for thirty
5 Oporto-Madrid Blvd. S
Birmingham, Alabama 35206-4800
- Take I-59 North to exit (#131)
- Turn south.
- Continue across 1st Avenue North.
- Library 1 block on left.