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Bacon Library and Art Museum, 1881


In September 1873, the University of California moved to the Berkeley campus from its prior location in Oakland. There were two buildings on the Berkeley campus: North Hall, which housed the College of Letters, and South Hall, which housed the College of Science. The Library, holding 5,000 volumes, was moved into South Hall on a "temporary basis." Soon it became clear that the Library needed larger quarters. The Regents Biennial Report of 1875-77 says:

"The Library and Museum might be included in a large two story building, constructed entirely, both externally and internally, of incombustible materials, the lower floor being occupied by the library, and the upper floor, by the Museum. This building should be large enough to meet the probable wants of the future… Such a structure adapted alike to the present and future wants of a growing institution, must necessarily be costly; it will constitute an enduring monument to the generosity of the State which offers to her sons and daughters the opportunities and means of the largest and most generous culture."

In 1881 a new building, Bacon Hall, opened to house the Library and the University's newly acquired art collection. The Library collection at this time held over 17,000 volumes.

Bacon Hall included reading and committee rooms on the west, and a three-story rotunda on the east where the books were shelved on the main floor and two upper galleries that overlook ked a central open area. As the collection grew, the basement was finished and books were stored there as well. In 1908 the collection had grown to 160,000 volumes, and was seriously outgrowing Bacon Hall.


1881. View of east facade, showing portions of South Hall and North Hall in background.


"Here at last was a commodious and beautiful structure, with oceans of room for books and readers, cream tinted walls adorned with paintings and portraits, iron work, shining with new gilt, and six portraits delineated by Narjot on the ceiling of the rotunda. It was completed just in time for the reception of new books purchased with the first Reese fund income."
--Rowell, Beginnings of a Great Library

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