Claremont Library renamed in honor of philanthropist Helen Renwick
The Claremont library was renamed this week to honor philanthropist Helen Renwick.
Supervisor Hilda Solis authored a motion, which was approved by the LA County Board of Supervisors, to change the name of the Claremont Public Library building to the “Claremont Helen Renwick Library.”
As documented by John Neiuber in his COURIER column “From the Files of Claremont Heritage,” Ms. Renwick was heavily involved in Claremont’s earliest days.
“Probably her most noteworthy contribution to the development of the city is the public library,” Mr. Neiuber wrote. “Ms. Renwick believed that the city needed a library because there was not one for children to use. She supported the fledgling Los Angeles County Library system and worked with the Women’s Union to establish the library in various locations before it found its permanent home.”
As reported in her 1930 obituary in the COURIER, Ms. Renwick came from Iowa to Claremont with her son in 1895, following the death of her husband. She and William, her only child, made their first home at 161 W. Sixth St. but, in 1901, moved to her now historic home at 211 College Avenue.
In 1919, she donated six lots behind her College Avenue home to the city that were to be used for a public library.
“She envisioned a civic center that would include city hall, the post office, the Santa Fe Depot and, finally, a library building,” Mr. Neiuber wrote. “She insisted the library be constructed within 10 years of the gift and that it cost no less than $20,000.”
Claremont formed a library committee, which included Ms. Renwick, and in 1927 voters passed a $25,000 bond for construction. The original 1928 building was designed by Pasadena architects Marston & Maybury, but that structure was demolished and replaced with the bunker-style library Claremont has today.
Ms. Renwick’s original home was left to Pomona College, her son’s alma mater. Pomona restored and preserved the structure and, as part of planning for the school’s new museum of art, was moved across the street for continued use as staff offices. Pomona College’s new museum is currently being constructed on the lot where her home once stood.
Ms. Renwick also donated funds for construction of Rembrandt Hall, the art building at Pomona College and the land to establish Pilgrim Place.
The Claremont Helen Renwick Public Library, located at 208 N. Harvard Ave., is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.