Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Enchanted Tiki Library

Back in August 2011, on my other blog, I wrote about the world's only "Enchanted Tiki Library," located in Huntington Beach, California. Now, depending on who you believe, it may either be torn down and replaced or simply made to disappear entirely. And best of all,... it involves election year politics.

The photo above shows the 2,400-square-foot Banning Branch Library, which began life in 1962 at 22171 Bushard Ave. as the tract office for the housing developments being built all around it. Several of those tracts, including Newport West, featured some Polynesian-themed roof lines and street names, and the tract office was built to echo that theme.

"It's beach party time at Newport West" one of developer's lackeys told the L.A. Times in 1966. "Residents here are one block from the ocean and the popular entertainment of the season is an early evening beach party." The article went on to describe the tract homes exteriors, which "range from island modern to beach contemporary." Another article described some of the styles as "Tahitian, contemporary modern, and California conventional."
Illustration of a "Tahitian"-style home in Dutch Haven's Newport West tract from a 1963 newspaper ad.
On March 26, 1968 the whole tract office building was moved down the road and around the corner to 9281 Banning Ave., and was turned into a neighborhood branch of the Huntington Beach Public Library.

In 2007, the City hired an architectural firm to draw up plans for a new 12,500 square-foot building to replace the current one. Then the economy stalled off that plan indefinitely.

Now the library is being used as part of a larger game of political blackmail. This coming election day, "Measure Z" will appear on the ballots of Huntington Beach residents. If passed, this measure will remove a property tax that currently helps pay for city worker's pensions. Those campaigning against Measure Z, including some city leaders, say they will be forced to cut a number of basic community services if Measure Z passes -- And the Banning Branch Library is on the short list.

On one hand, I recognize this is the same kind of reprehensible blackmail that Jerry "No-you're-no-hallucinating-I-really-am-governor-again" Brown is foisting on us this year: "Give me what I want or I will make sure that all budget cuts come from the programs you most love." On the other hand, Measure Z would indeed force the city to find the money for pensions elsewhere. And considering that at least a couple of our councilmembers probably pronounce the word, "li-barry," it wouldn't be surprising to see our libraries clobbered. Already, the city has forced the reduction of library hours.
The middle-ground between a new library and no library, of course, would be to keep "The Enchanted Tiki Library" just the way it is. Maybe even gussy it up a little with subtropical landscaping and new interiors by Oceanic Arts and neighborhood resident Bamboo Ben. It's a fair compromise, and a great way to save not only a tiki building but an extremely rare example of something that personified the most important boom in Southern California's history: The Mid-Century tract office.


  1. Some friends of mine who I worked with at Disney had their wedding reception here (the wedding was on the beach!). They are BIG Tiki fans and that was the theme of the reception--although a good deal of decorating had to be done to make it match the outside!!

  2. We don't need libraries and bookstores now that we have Kindles and whatnot, according to Generation Y.

  3. I grew up near this Library (which sits on the property of the same Elementary School I attended - John H. Eader Elementary (Go Eader Beavers!) & is nearby one of the river trails that caused flooding back in 1982 - 1093) @ 9322 Mokihana Drive ...

    The Librarian (I forget her name, but she was still there even as I was in High School - Edison High School) was the sweetest old lady ever. If this landmark meets the wrecking ball, I hope every damn mid century modern fan behind the Orange Curtain pimp slaps everyone responsible (seriously, this building deserves to be saved!) ....