Our previous column bookmarked the story of Mendocino’s many libraries at the part where the venerable Mendocino Study Club has become the patron for the town’s bibliophiles.
In 1938, the Club unexpectedly needed another place to hold their meetings. Since 1924, they had convened for business and pleasure on the second floor of the old Templar’s Hall – coincidentally the location of the town’s first (short-lived) lending library, located on the south side of Main Street, across from the Hotel Mendocino. When the Mendocino Lumber Company, who owned the building, was absorbed by the Union Lumber Company, the Club lost the use of this space because the building was going to be dismantled.
A solution was found and the Club meetings were moved to Kaze Hall, a building constructed in 1887 by W. H. Kelly and now owned by his daughter, Daisy MacCallum, who was a member and former president of the Study Club. This building on the corner of Ukiah and Lansing Streets had housed many different ventures during its half century lifespan, including two previous library incarnations.
The most recent of these was the Girl Scout’s Library, started in 1932, whose story we covered in our previous installment. It turns out that the Study Club had participated in that earlier venture by purchasing some books for the troop’s small public library in its early years.
Through the 30s and 40s, the people of Mendocino had made numerous requests to locate a county branch library in their vicinity. Frustrated by the lack of response, Daisy suggested the Club have its own.
In February 1947, members moved into the building and began transforming the Hall’s narrow bowling alley into a library. They budgeted $5.00 a month for new books, and appointed Helen Thomsen, Aldine Gorman, Evelyn Larkin, and Alma Mendosa to manage it. The Mendocino Study Club Library formally opened on June 7, 1947 with sixty-two books saved from the Girl Scout’s collection. The library joined the Dollar-a-Month and Detective book clubs, and by the end of the year had 650 new books and fifty borrowers.
Three years later, Mrs. MacCallum decided the hall needed some repairs. She wanted the Club to have a nice meeting rooms, and an appropriate place to house the town’s library.
After extensive renovations, the Hall was a marvel of modern conveniences. There were two main entrances, one on Ukiah street that opened into the large hall or auditorium, and another on the Lansing Street corner that was an entry hall with solid birch doors leading to the Study Club rooms and the beautifully appointed, sunlit library. It was 20 x 27 feet in size and had more than 1,500 books in 1950.
Daisy also gave the building a new name – Kellieowen Hall (pronounced kelly-owen), a combination of Daisy’s own and her mother’s maiden names. Today, the space is occupied by a home furnishings and clothing boutique called “The Study Club,” named by owner Erin Keller-McMillan in honor of the Club’s long residence there.
Fast forward twenty years from its 1947 founding, and the Study Club’s Library now contained 6,300 volumes, donated mostly by the book lovers of the community. The collection ranged through fiction, non-fiction, travel books, mysteries, westerns, and many children’s books. Members gave (and continue to give) unselfishly of their time to keep the library open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays of each week between the hours of 2 and 4 in the afternoon.
Through the 1970s, the Study Club continued to manage the town’s library. But after Daisy’s death in 1953, the ownership of Kellieowen Hall passed down to her heirs, and the family eventually sold the property in 1974. The Club again found themselves in need of a new home for itself and for the community’s library.
Next week’s column will take us to the last (or most recent) chapter in Mendocino’s library story.
If you’d like to know more about the 112-year-old Mendocino Study Club, a wonderful 20-page booklet was written by Jean Droz and Janet Barnes called, “Ladies of the Afternoon.” Copies can be purchased at The Study Club boutique on Lansing, or online at kelleyhousemuseum.org/store/#ladies/