Although the La Center Community Library has been operational since 2004, the existence of the building dates back to the early 1900s.
The building on Northeast Lockwood Creek Road was constructed sometime between 1905 and 1907, based on conflicting historical sources.
The building’s original purpose was far removed from a library, however.
“It was built by Dr. Charles Ralph Zener,” said Tak Kendrick, the communications and marketing director of the Fort Vancouver Library District. “It served as a hospital and a drug store. In 1999, the property was bought up and they were almost going to set up a fire training exercise to destroy the building for firefighters.”
In 1999, Kendrick said the property was purchased by Margaret Colf Hepola, a civic activist and preservationist who prevented it from being demolished. Hepola had a personal connection to the building as her mother used to work there, according to a document from the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission.
The Colf Family Foundation, which was housed at the building, later moved less than a mile up the road to its current location in 2001, Kendrick said. In 2004, the Northeast Lockwood Creek Road building was remodeled into a library. The railing next to the stairs inside of the building and one of the windows was kept in its original condition.
According to Kendrick, the Friends of La Center Community Library group helped raise funds for the renovations. A document stated that some of the fundraising efforts involved spaghetti dinners and tea parties, as well as a $1 million donation from the Colf Family Foundation. One of the renovations included the balcony on the second floor in the front of the building, as a fire escape was added for safety measures, the document stated.
The historical significance of the library has been demonstrated not only in the building itself, but outside of the building as well.
“When they were working to get (the building) prepared to be a library space, they required a lot of donations from the community,” said Eric Brengle, the senior branch supervisor of the library. “One of the ways they had originally done this was by having donors buy commemorative bricks with information engraved on them on the walkway out front. But over time, those bricks have really worn down and some of them are really hard to read, so just recently the Friends of La Center Community Library put a poster together that captures the information, so we don’t lose the authenticity of the original bricks, but we have all the messages of dedication still preserved.”
The framed poster hangs on a wall on the first floor of the building.
“Putting that poster together required a lot of digging back through the old records to figure out what some of them said, since we can no longer read the bricks as they are now,” Brengle said.
Brengle feels the library building has great cultural and historical significance.
“The best perspective of it I have is what I hear from patrons in the community,” he said. “I think people appreciate the fact that the building has long roots in the area. It’s been multiple different things in its time, with its origin as a hospital linking back to the area in a way I think a lot of people find appealing. The fact that it has been adapted into its current usage in a way that allows people to come in and still make use of the space is kind of nice. They have this connection that’s older from the community, but it’s still open and accessible to them in a new and punctual way.”
The library is located at 1411 NE Lockwood Creek Road in La Center. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except for Sundays and Mondays.
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