Who knew that the American Library Association selected our humble Sprague Library as the "Most Beautiful Branch Library in America"? Yup, in 1935! The award could certainly be fitting today as this Salt Lake City library re-opened to the public this week as a restored, refreshed and repaired beauty to behold!
Back in July 2017, a sudden storm drenched both the city and Sugar House. Several inches poured from the skies over an hour. This library sits along Parleys Creek, and debris in the creek clogged one of the drainage grates in the Hidden Hollow retention pond, causing water and detritus to overflow, running directly into the basement of the library. When the storm subsided, there were 5 feet of muck and dirty water in the basement; books, periodicals and supplies were lost forever.
After disaster cleanup was done, a team from Architectural Nexus and Margaret Sullivan Studio held open-house meetings to see how the community wanted the library to be restored and updated, and renovations began in 2019. Although the building was closed, the library continued to serve the community by opening the Sprague "Firehouse Express" at 1085 E. Simpson, which featured a few public computers, a book drop and a small collection of materials.
Attending the library's grand re-opening last week were the mayor and members of the Salt Lake City Council. If their ooohs and ahhhs while touring the space were any indication, what they saw delighted them.
I was able to get a tour from Gordon Bradberry, who is Salt Lake City Public Library assistant director of facilities/IT. Mind you, I see many buildings in my daily life, and I, too, squealed as he showed me the newly restored spaces. Outside where there used to be an amphitheater pit is now waterwise hardscaping with a stage that abuts the building's east side. Café tables will be located in that area and on the Highland Drive side. There's also free Wi-Fi inside and out for anyone nearby.
With the basement's street-level skylights, you'd never know you were underground because of all of the light. The meeting room can be expanded to allow for the 150-plus members of the Sugar House Community Council at their monthly meetings.
The children's reading room is similarly enormous, and the long table of computers can be moved to accommodate events and meetings.
The signage and upholstery are rendered in modern colors while the light fixtures upstairs use irregularly shaped disks to accentuate the extra tall ceilings of the original high-gabled English Tudor Jacobethan Revival-style architecture. Sugar beet designs are woven into the carpets and molded into the handrailings throughout.
Named after Joanna Sprague—the director of the Free Public Library of Salt Lake from 1903-1940—the library is on the National Register of Historic Places. Simply put: It's drop-dead beautiful inside and out. I encourage you to visit at 2131 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City. Open Monday-Thursday, 11a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.