Porter Memorial Public Library

Soquel California

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Brief History of the Porter Memorial Public Library

The story of the Porter Memorial Library begins in the year 1912. A group of Soquel women, calling themselves the Soquel Ladies Improvement Club, decided that the town needed a public library. They approached William and Mary Porter Sesnon, long time residents of the area, to donate a piece of land in Soquel for the library. An agreement was reached that the ladies would raise the money for the building and the Sesnons would donate the land and their own architects (Clarence R. Ward and J. H. Blohme of San Francisco, who had designed the Sesnon house now on the campus of Cabrillo College) to design the building.

The money was raised, the land was donated and the building began. On October 19, 1912, the cornerstone was laid, and in January 1913, the doors of the Soquel Memorial Public Library opened to the public. The building was named the Porter Memorial Public Library in honor of Benjamin and Kate Porter, the parents of Mary Porter Sesnon.

The building was truly a community effort. Even children helped. All of the stones for the large stone fireplace were carried from Soquel Creek by the Soquel Elementary School children.

The flagpole that stands in front of the library bears a plaque dedicated to Nora Angell, the secretary of the Ladies Improvement Club who was the driving force behind the movement to build the Library.

The Library has remained open since its beginning in 1913, except for brief periods following the floods of 1955 and 1982 and the earthquake of 1989. But something very important happened in 1978. With the passage of Proposition 13, the County decided it could no longer afford to offer library services in Soquel. Mona Blackholm, a Soquel resident, approached County officials with the 1912 agreement between the Sesnons and Santa Cruz County. It stated that that the land and building were being given to the County only to be operated as a Public Library. Armed with this agreement and backed by a group of volunteers, Mona convinced the County to turn the operation of the Library over to the volunteers, now known as the Porter Memorial Library Board. Many people offered their time to serve as librarians or help in other ways with Library operation. The result is that the Library is open and flourishing today due to the same kind of community spirit that built it in 1912.

In 1992, the Santa Cruz County Historical Trust awarded the building landmark status and the blue oval plaque stating this is proudly displayed next to the entrance.

In 1996, Norman Angell, Nora’s son, willed monies from his estate to the Porter Memorial Library and to the Soquel Historical Society with the hope that together these two groups could develop a Soquel Museum. With this money, the Library has been refurbished to allow a room for a display of Soquel’s history. We have Mr. Angell to thank for the new, fresh look and for the beautiful furnishings we have in the Library today.

When looking back at its history, people have often called this building “The Little Library That Could.” It is because of the many people who wished to see a library built and to continue offering library services to the many people of Soquel, that the Porter Memorial Library is here and serving us today.