Library & Local History butterfly

History of the LibraryIn 1886 the first library in Pacific Grove opened in the “reading corner” of the Old Parlor. The Old Parlor was located at 165 Fountain Avenue at the corner of Fountain and High, now Ricketts Lane. It was used as a community hall from the early 1880s until 1910.

The Pacific Grove Library Association also dates from 1886. In 1904 the collection was given to the city which obtained a Carnegie grant of $10,000 in 1906. The Pacific Improvement Company donated the lot, itself valued at $10,000. Total costs far exceeded the grant; therefore, plans were modified and the difference made up through taxation. McDougall Bros. designed the building and Harry Chivers and the Granite Rock Company were the builders. At the dedication, Paris Kilburn praised the building in which size but not quality was sacrificed. He named all the craftsmen, and berated complainers: “What you want here is your taxes not lowered but increased, and abandon the idea of getting something for nothing.” The library was enlarged in 1926, 1938, 1950 and most recently in 1978-1981 with the new steep gable roof incorporating all.

In 1908 the Pacific Grove Public Library opened at 550 Central Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950.

Although the exterior of the original Carnegie building has changed somewhat, it is still in the Mission style, and many of the original features in the interior, including the lovely arches and windows of the Reading Area, have been maintained. These features, along with a library staff long noted for friendly assistance and high quality service, combine to provide a welcoming atmosphere to everyone who visits the library.

In October 2019 the library moved to a temporary location at 542 Lighthouse Ave., #111 while the building on Central Ave. underwent an extensive remodel of the interior. The renewal project was deemed substantially complete in July of 2020.

Bridges that Span the Centuries“Books are our best, our wisest, and most faithful companions. They instruct, they entertain, and they console us. Books like searchlights, penetrate the darkness of the past and supplement our fading memories. Like the noonday sun, they illumine the present, and make our limited field of vision almost boundless as omniscience. They are the bridges that span the centuries...they annihilate space and time, and make our libraries whispering galleries wherein the faintest noise from the most distant place and time can reach the dullest ear.”

Horace Platt
Pacific Improvement Company
PGPL Cornerstone Laying
November 9, 1907

Local HistoryThe Local History Collection
The Pacific Grove Public Library collects, organizes, stores and displays books, maps, images, manuscripts, audio visual materials, oral histories, biography files, directories, voter registers, local newspaper clippings, ephemera, and other printed, handwritten and drawn artifacts pertaining to Pacific Grove's heritage. Due to the importance of this unique collection, appropriate preservation methods and materials are sought out and utilized.The collection includes:

  • Pacific Grove Newspapers 1888 to current (some on microfilm and some accessible digitally from library computers)
  • 1900 & 1910 U.S. Census for Monterey County
  • 1926 U.S. Census for Pacific Grove with alphabetical list of surnames
  • City Directories 1907 - 1987 (some years missing)
  • Sanborn Maps 1888-1926
  • Pacific Grove High School Sea Urchin Yearbooks 1905 to the present (some years missing)
  • Early photographs and postcards
  • Pamphlets & brochures
  • Chautauqua books, pamphlets, etc.
  • Art by Pacific Grove artists
  • Archives of the Pacific Grove Public Library
Community and Local History Links

MissionThe mission of the Pacific Grove Public Library is to provide a welcoming place and a balanced collection while preserving the past and planning for the future. To promote the city’s heritage by collecting, preserving, organizing and making available historical resources related or relevant to the City of Pacific Grove.

Library interior, Christmas 1956
Library Dedication, 1977
Carnegie Library exterior
Foot of 16th early 1800s
The foot of 16th Street, early 1880’s
Gosby House 1890
Gosby House, corner of Lighthouse & 18th.
Pine Street Looking East from Cypress
Pine Street looking east from Cypress
Holman's Department Store postcard
Tent City, 1880's
Trolley at the corner of Grand & Lighthouse, early 1890's
Additional Information & Resources
Chronology of Pacific Grove History
Jose Maria Armenta claims the land grant for “Punta de los Pinos”  (2,667 acres that included Monterey and Pacific Grove.)

Point Pinos Lighthouse built. (It is the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the west coast.)

David Jacks acquires “Punta de los Pinos Rancho” from Darrell Stokes Gregory.

David Jacks acquires more of the Rancho lands.

Methodist Annual Conference meets in San Francisco and begins the discussion of creating a seaside resort on the west coast.  Rev. W.S. Ross spends time camping in a grove of trees near Monterey Bay. The land is owned by David Jacks and negotiations begin with him for the use of his land.

June 1875
The Pacific Grove Retreat Association (PGRA) is formed.

July 1875
Official agreement signed between the PGRA and David Jacks for 100 acres of the existing Rancho Punta de los Pinos land. For Jacks, the deal is partially a donation and partially a business deal. The first map of Pacific Grove is filed with the Monterey County Recorder’s Office.

August 8 through August 29: Commencement of first Methodist camp in Pacific Grove.

May 1876
Unsold Pacific Grove Retreat lots revert back to David Jacks as per the agreement of 1875.

May 1880
David Jacks sells all of remaining Punta de los Pinos Rancho to the Pacific Improvement Company (PIC), a branch of  the Southern Pacific Railroad.  The selling price was $35,000.

The first Chautauqua Summer Retreat meeting is held. The Feast of  Lanterns celebration begins to mark the closing of the Summer Retreat.

Eight families now live year-round in the Grove.

March 31: The PIC and the PGRA sign a contract stating the PIC controls financial management and the PGRA controls “the moral and prudential management” of Pacific Grove.

June 1884
Carrie Lloyd opens a summer school for children in Chautauqua Hall.

Business begin to appear on Lighthouse near Forest. The first library opens in the “reading corner” of the old Parlor.

First hotel opens: The El Carmelo  between Fountain and Forest Ave. St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea consecrated.

June 1889
Pacific Grove incorporates.

Railroad comes to Pacific Grove.

Pine Street School opens with 150 students enrolled. The school serves all grade levels. President Benjamin Harrison visits Pacific Grove.

Hopkins Seaside Lab - part of Stanford University - is built.

Pacific Grove Bath House is built.

Electric lights come to Pacific Grove. The Mayflower Church is built.

First Telephone exchange installed.

President William McKinley visits Pacific Grove.

President Theodore Roosevelt visits Pacific Grove.

The city of Pacific Grove obtains a Carnegie grant to build a public library.

Arson fire destroys the Chinese fishing village at Cabrillo Point.

Pacific Grove Public Library opens at its current location.

Pacific Grove High School constructed on Forest Avenue (presently the Middle School).

Pacific Improvement Company donates land to the YWCA. This becomes Asilomar   “Refuge by the Sea.”

The Monterey Boatworks is built on the site of the former Chinese fishing village.

Pacific Biological Laboratory, Ed Rickett’s first laboratory, opens at 165 Fountain. Pine Street grammar School opens. Renamed Robert H. Down  Elementary School in 1952.

Holman’s Department Store opens on Lighthouse Avenue.  Lighthouse Avenue paved.

Forest Hill Hotel constructed at Forest and Gibson, currently Forest Hill Manor Retirement Center.

John Steinbeck moves to Pacific Grove, 147 Eleventh Street. Holman Highway built (Hwy 68 East).

Pacific Grove Museum opens to the public. Pacific Grove Municipal golf course opens.

Post Office constructed.


Pacific Grove by Kent Seavey and the Heritage Society of Pacific Grove. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

Pacific Grove: A Story of Western Development  by Robert J. Rapp. Master’s Thesis, 2002.

Local History Files, Pacific Grove Public Library.
Oral History Video
The Pacific Grove Oral History Project was started in September 2014 by 3 Pacific Grove High School students under the auspices of the Pacific Grove Public Library and was funded by the Friends of the Pacific Grove Public Library. Golnoush Pak, George Haugen and Michele Haugen interviewed 5 longtime PG residents and produced this 10 minute film.

Oral History Audio
Pacific Grove Public Library Art Collection

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