This month Scott and I have been married for 42 years. We obviously married very, very young and have been on an adventure ever since that snowy December afternoon in 1971. We have moved 16 times since, including once across country from Indiana to Southern California, and then to Benicia in 1985. Of all the houses we have owned, the current one has really gotten under my skin. The house, formerly the Benicia Public Library, was built by the City of Benicia in 1956 on land donated by Edna Clyne Leary. Edna's grandson Neal Leary lives in the gorgeous Victorian next door and has preserved it as a showplace of the era.
The "new" Benicia Public Library was dedicated on May 17, 1956 with much fanfare. Representatives from the state, county and city were present along with members of the Benicia Parlors Native Sons and Native Daughters of The Golden West. Prior to its new location, the library occupied 600 sq. ft in the State Capitol building down the street. At that time there were 691 books, which increased to 5,000 when they made the move. The construction cost for the 3,600 sq. ft. structure was $24,735.00, built without taxpayer money. The story of how the library relocated to its new home is truly Benicia lore. A bucket line was formed from the Capitol to 144 East G Street, and the 691 books were passed from person to person until the new library was filled.
The interior of the library building has changed dramatically from the days of dropping the off the boys to check out books and do reports, and circling to find a coveted parking place. Our kitchen sits in the old book checkout and return area. The original wood counter with a return slat is still there, with inkpad stains remaining in one of the drawers. The children's reading room is now my office, where the glass partitions that kept the children's voices contained continues to give privacy while keeping the space light-filled and open. The back of the house, formally the adult reading and research area, is the living room and master bedroom.
It’s a house for entertaining, and besides holiday gatherings for family and friends, we’ve had campaign kickoffs and fundraisers for local non-profits. This year we hosted the 20th anniversary of the newest Benicia Public Library, built in 1993. More than 100 friends gathered to toast the vision of several generations who understood the importance of an accessible place to satisfy the needs of a growing community.
We recently sold the house and will be moving to a new location, hopefully downtown. I will miss this large open space with its vaulted ceilings that are perfect for the tallest of Christmas trees. We won’t forget the wonderful times we have shared with close friends and curious residents who were given a spontaneous tour
But moving can be liberating and a cleansing experience. Do I really to need to keep 100 copies of Vogue magazine? Out with the old and in with the new! It will be difficult to top living here but with some luck it's a move around the corner and a new adventure. Number 17, here we come.