Capitol View Library History

Capitol View Library History

Capitol View Library

The Capitol View Neighborhood Library, a 20,000-square-foot brick-and-concrete building, opened in 1965, the culmination of 10 years of work on behalf of the Capitol View community.

The building, designed by E.W. Cooke -- with D.C.'s Office of the Supervising Architect -- and funded under the D.C. Public works Program, cost an approximate $422,000. It rests on a site in Southeast Washington that is bounded by Central Avenue on the north, 50th Street on the west, and Ayers Place on the south.

Community involvement

Capitol View, a neighborhood settled on the eastern end of E. Capitol Street, grew into a substantial residential neighborhood after World War II. As the population grew and the neighborhood became established, the citizens of the area began to consider the need for a library. The Capitol View Civic Association, the Marshall Heights Civic Association and members of the local PTA petitioned the Library for a location.

Several other projects took precedence of over Capitol View, but Congress appropriated funds for the project in 1961 and 1962. On Aug. 17, 1961, several Capitol View residents appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to plead for the reinstatement of the $422,000 earmarked for the Capitol View Library.

Maria Trotter, a 10-year-old resident of the neighborhood, read a letter she wrote asking for the money to build the much-needed library. "If we read more," she wrote, "we might become teachers, doctors, chemists or other useful men and women...Sincerely, Children of Capitol View Area."

Designs underway

Funds were secured by the end of 1962, and design was under way -- with some adjustments along the way. A letter dated November 1962 described recommended changes completed by the architect's office, including the elimination of brick pilasters and strip windows with the substitution of a "facade developed as a formal rhythm of framed vertical brick and window panels." The architect also explained how "the entrance extension has been simplified and the arched motif eliminated."

A rendering of the library at the National Archives bears the signature of E.W. Cooke, suggesting that he was the architect, although no written documentation confirms his involvement. The branch's design reflected a break from the established formula set over the previous decade under the D.C. Public Works Program. The previous seven public works libraries displayed similar design features determined not only by the D.C. Public Library's staff, which developed its own set of guidelines, but by the Office of the Supervising Architect, which prescribed construction materials, decorative elements and the organization of the facade.

A new library

Capitol View Library, Opening DayThe new Capitol View Neighborhood Library opened on Jan. 23, 1965, the day after its dedication. Edward James Talbert served as the first branch librarian, with an eleven-person staff. The branch's initial collection had 24,438 volumes, with a $19,000 book budget for the first year. The branch recorded a daily circulation of approximately 500 books in its first five days of operation.

Local community organizations, including the Marshall Heights and Capitol View civic associations, began campaigning for a large and diverse book collection as soon as the library was opened. The library also became involved in the life of the community, offering annual and weekly programs that included a Spring Bazaar, Octoberfest and an annual Career Day Workshop. Just after opening, the library began providing space for YWCA volunteer tutors.

The first project of the SE/NE Friends of the Capitol View Branch was a fundraising program that collected $1,000, which was matched by a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC-7E) has also provided support during Capitol View's 32 years of service.