Designed by John Porter Clark, the city’s first resident architect, and constructed by local builder Charles Chamberlin, the library was completed in 1940. Designated a Class 1 Historic Site in 1984, the library’s green concrete trim and clean modern lines have made the downtown building a community favorite for decades. The library was named after George Welwood Murray who, along with Cornelia White, gift-deeded the property to the city in 1938.
On June 22, 2022 concerns were raised about the installation of an unsympathetic handrail at the entrance to the library. Notably, the installation had not been coordinated with the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board.
On February 17, 2015 a grand re-opening event was held in celebration of returning the Welwood Murray Memorial Library to its life as a public building in downtown Palm Springs.
On October 24, 2014 the Desert Sun reported that “a divided library board of trustees narrowly approved a proposal to allow a bar and restaurant operation to encroach into the rear patio of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library.” However, the ensuing community furor over the board’s decision both public and private effectively halted the ill-advised proposal.
On October 21, 2014 PSPF sent a letter to the city of Palm Springs strenuously objecting to a proposal to extend a restaurant-bar from Plaza Las Flores into the Welwood Murray Memorial Library site. In the letter, PSPF stated “we have watched with interest the recent proposal to extend a bar-restaurant from Plaza Las Flores into the WMML [and]…expected that the city’s normal administrative processes would reject this ill-advised proposal….Unfortunately, it was revealed at the [HSPB] meeting on Tuesday, October 14th that the city appears to be circumventing its own normal processes.” The PSPF letter also opined, “We fail to understand why this proposal was not rejected outright; certainly there is compelling legal precedent to do so,” and cited the legal precedent of Save the Welwood Murray Memorial Library Committee v. City Council, 215 Cal.App.3d 1004(1989). To read the entire PSPF letter click here.
On May 21, 2014 in a mixed result, the Palm Springs city council voted 4-1 (Pougnet, Lewin, Hutcheson and Mills supporting) to ignore all but one of the Historic Site Preservation Board’s (HSPB) recommendations intended to improve the authenticity of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library’s interior design. Fortunately, the city council did support the HSPB’s most important recommendation which removed the non-historic and arbitrary “circle-in-square” motif that was to be integrated throughout the library’s design. Making public comment on the issue, PSPF board member Gary Johns opined that the recommendations were important to maintain the “sense of place” of the historic library. A stream of emails from the PSPF membership did much to convince the city council to critically evaluate the interior design which had been characterized as a “done deal.”
On May 19, 2014 PSPF sent a letter to the mayor of Palm Springs asking that the city council uphold the recommendations made by the HSPB which were intended to improve the proposed interior design of the WMML. In the letter PSPF opined that the conditions levied by the HSPB were “reasonable and thoughtful” and should not delay the progress of the library’s rehabilitation. Furthermore, PSPF stated that “the (HSPB’s) recommendations speak directly to the importance of the authenticity of the library’s original (interior) design.” To read the PSPF letter click here.
On May 13, 2014 the city’s HSPB met and made seven recommendations to improve the city’s plan for the interior rehabilitation of the WMML. Later that day, in an unfortunate development, an appeal was filed by a city councilmember asking that the “conditions” levied by the HSPB be over-turned by the city council.
On May 7, 2014 PSPF sent a letter to the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board voicing the foundation’s growing concerns about “the authenticity of some of the (library’s proposed) interior design elements” and reminding the board that the library’s “original design” was “clean and unornamented.” To read the PSPF letter click here.
At the February 1, 2013 PSPF board of director’s meeting, PSPF board member Jim Harlan volunteered to prepare preliminary drawings of the historic library’s lost circulation desk. A recent site survey of the library determined that there were still outlines (“ghosting”) of the original desk remaining. This information, in conjunction with historic photographs, will allow for a faithful reconstruction of this important interior element.
On November 7, 2012 the Palm Springs city council voted unanimously (5-0) to support the proposed space plan for the Welwood Murray Memorial Library and to proceed with the “final design and bid document development.” PSPF’s offer to financially assist with the reconstruction of the historic library’s original circulation desk was commended by several speakers.
On November 6, 2012 PSPF board member Ron Duby made public comment before the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board lauding the city’s plans for the rehabilitation of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library and reiterating PSPF’s offer to financially support the reconstruction of the library’s original circulation desk (see vintage photograph of the desk below). The HSPB voted to support the city’s proposed plans for use of the library’s interior uses and endorsed PSPF’s desire to have the original circulation desk reconstructed.
On November 3, 2012 PSPF sent a letter to the city’s Director of Planning Services concerning the proposed interior plans for the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. PSPF applauded the planned uses for the library and offered financial support for the reconstruction of the library’s lost circulation desk (pictured below). To read the PSPF letter click here.
On May 2, 2012 the Palm Springs city council voted unanimously to fund the renovation of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library “and Gift Shop.” The Desert Sun newspaper reported that the general building improvements are projected to cost $650,000 and that those monies had already been set aside. While the details of the renovation still need to be reviewed by the Historic Site Preservation Board, the current proposal appears to a sympathetic rehabilitation of the historic library.
On January 12, 2012 the Palm Springs Library Board of Trustees and the city council subcommittee (Chris Mills and Paul Lewin) charged with the rehabilitation of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library met in open session. PSPF board members Patrick McGrew, Ron Duby and Ron Marshall made public comment that stressed the importance of maintaining the historical integrity of the library’s interior and encouraged the library trustees to explore novel ways of engaging locals and tourists alike with programs that emphasized the architecture and history of the city. Comments made by council member Mills and city manager David Ready were very encouraging insofar as there seemed to be a general consensus that the interior of the library needed to be treated in a sensitive manner with due consideration given to its historical importance.
On January 4, 2012 the city council met to discuss the Welwood Murray Memorial Library renovation. There seemed to be consensus that the library shelving should be retained pending a better understanding of the library program and that preserving the shelving was important to maintaining the “atmosphere” of the 1940 library.
On December 30, 2011 PSPF sent a letter to Mayor Pougnet applauding the city’s “most recent proposals” for the rehabilitation of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library and the plan to house the city’s local history book collection, provide for “rotating exhibits” by the historical society and local museums and offer some tourism services. However, PSPF asked that the current plans be modified to reconstruct important elements of the original interior (e.g., the central desk) and retain as much of the book shelving as possible. PSPF asserts that by retaining the book shelving the city could “achieve much lower costs compared to the proposed interior design/build approach,” preserve the historical accuracy and “sense of space” of the interior and “reuse existing materials in a sustainable manner.” To read the PSPF letter click here.
At their September 13, 2011 meeting the Historic Site Preservation Board was asked to review minor adjustments to the Welwood Murray Memorial Library that would make the rear access of the historic building ADA-compliant. Importantly, the drawing accompanying this request seems to confirm that the city is pursuing a rehabilitation of the library within its historic footprint.
At the August 9, 2011 meeting of the Historic Site Preservation Board the city’s Director of Planning Services announced that the city had “withdrawn its architectural approval application” for the proposed unsympathetic remodel of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library and implied that the city was considering a rehabilitation of the library in its current historical configuration.
On June 20, 2011 the city’s Architectural Advisory Committee voted 6-0 (with one recusal) to recommend that the Director of Planning deny the proposed redesign of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. In explaining their unanimous denial of the project, the committee members stated that they found the redesign fundamentally “damaging” to the historic library. PSPF board members Marshall and McGrew made public comment asking the committee to deny the project in favor of a more sensitive restoration.
In an unfortunate setback, on June 14, 2011 the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board voted 4-2 to grant a certificate of approval for the “glass box” addition to the library. PSPF board members Rosenow and McGrew made public comment expressing their disappointment with the new design
On June 6, 2011 the city’s Architectural Advisory Committee voted to have the city restudy the new design for the library. During the public comment portion of the hearing PSPF board members Marshall and McGrew expressed their disappointment with the new design which, again, removes significant historic fabric from the building for a “glass box” addition.
On April 20, 2011 the Palm Springs city council endorsed (4-1) a redesign of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library (the redesign appears to largely stay within the historic footprint of the library). Few details regarding the extent of the interior restoration were revealed. The city council decision means this new design proposal will now be reviewed by various city boards and commissions.
Winter 2010 Update
On November 17, 2010 in a 3-2 vote (Pougnet, Foat and Hutcheson supporting), the Palm Springs city council upheld the decision of the Historic Site Preservation Board to deny the Certificate of Approval for the proposed remodel of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. After a long and exhaustive discussion by the city council, it was ultimately decided that the project architect would be directed to “redesign” the project based on council guidance to be provided by the end of November.
On hand for the November 17th hearing was a wide cross-section of the community (including Phillips Welwood Murray) who asked the city to use the library building in a manner that takes full advantage of its historic character. Many speakers also emphasized the importance of the library building’s “authenticity” and one speaker asserted that “adaptive reuse” should never masquerade as “unnecessary abuse.” A happy result of PSPF’s advocacy has been the emergence of a community-wide discussion about the library’s highest and best uses.
On November 5, 2010 PSPF asked the PSPF membership to contact the city (via the city clerk) to register their concerns about the ill-advised Welwood Murray Memorial Library remodel.
On November 4, 2010 the PSPF board of directors sent a letter to the Palm Springs mayor asking him to “uphold the recent, and overwhelming, decision” by the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board “to deny the Certificate of Approval for the flawed and unnecessary remodeling,” of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. To read the PSPF letter click here.
On November 3, 2010 in a disappointing development, PSPF confirmed that a Palm Springs city councilmember had appealed the HSPB’s thoughtful 5-to-1 decision to stop the flawed remodel of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the city council on Wednesday, November 17, 2010.
On October 12, 2010 the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board voted 5-1 (Strahl, Ploss, Cohen, DeLeeuw and B. Marshall supporting) to approve a motion to deny the Certificate of Approval request for an unsympathetic remodeling of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. PSPF board members Ron Marshall and Gary Johns, and PSPF volunteers Ron Duby and Erik Rosenow, made thoughtful and extensive public comment at this critical hearing (1) objecting to the requested Certificate of Approval and, (2) strongly advocating the sensitive restoration of this important transitional modern building. To see a PSPF graphic illustrating the proposed demolition plan click here.
On October 11, 2010 the city’s Architectural Advisory Committee voted 3-0 (with one abstention and three recusals) to recommend denial of the proposal to insensitively remodel the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. PSPF board members and PSPF volunteers voiced their serious concerns about the proposal.
Summer 2010 Update
On August 16, 2010 PSPF received a letter from Phillips Welwood Murray (a descendant of Dr. Welwood Murray) applauding PSPF’s advocacy on the Welwood Murray Memorial Library project. In his letter Mr. Murray asks the city leadership to pursue a “sensitive restoration” of the library and further asserts that such a course of action is the “smart thing to do.” To read Mr. Murray’s letter click here. On August 22, 2010 PSPF received a letter from Sara S. J. James (great-great-granddaughter of Welwood Murray) concerning the Welwood Murray Memorial Library project. In her letter Ms. James tells the city leadership she is “concerned and alarmed” about the proposed project and further states the project “would fundamentally and negatively impact the architecture of the building.” Ms. James also asks the city to support PSPF’s efforts to achieve a sensitive restoration. To read Ms. James’ letter click here.
On August 10, 2010 at the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board meeting, the director of planning services announced that the “applicant” (i.e., the city) would be re-submitting the Welwood Murray Memorial Library (WMML) project to the Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC) on September 7, 2010 (with review by the Historic Site Preservation Board on September 14th) as a “new” application. Further, it appears that the previously submitted WMML project will be held in abeyance. The details of the new project may not be known until the September AAC meeting.
On August 9, 2010 PSPF sent a letter to the Palm Springs mayor and city council detailing the PSPF concerns raised at the August 4th meeting with the senior city staff. Read the PSPS Letter
On August 4, 2010 PSPF board members Ron Marshall and Gary Johns met with the city manager, assistant city manager, city attorney, director of planning services and others to discuss the foundation’s many concerns regarding the Welwood Murray Memorial Library project. The meeting was cordial and there was a frank and wide-ranging exchange of views regarding the project. In addition to the concerns raised, the PSPF board members emphasized their view that a unique opportunity is available to the city to do a first-rate and sensitive restoration of the library.
At the July 13, 2010 meeting of the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) PSPF board members Gary Johns, Patrick McGrew and Ron Marshall made public comment regarding the Welwood Murray Memorial Library project. The remarks expressed alarm that the proposed project was not adhering to U.S. Secretary of Interior standards for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Specific concerns were raised about the demolition of parts of the building (a Class1 historic site) and a new roof structure proposed to be attached to the original building. The PSPF board members emphasized that the city has a wonderful opportunity to do a first-class restoration of this architecturally and historically important building. PSPF board member McGrew also provided the HSPB with a written analysis that describes in detail how the current proposal fails to meet well-established preservation standards.
On July 8, 2010 PSPF board members Ron Marshall and Gary Johns met with the project architects (Escalante Architects) to discuss PSPF’s concerns about the proposed rehabilitation of the Welwood Murray Memorial Library. During the cordial meeting, PSPF emphasized the importance of following U.S. Secretary of Interior standards regarding the rehabilitation of historic properties.
IN THE MEDIA
May 20, 2015, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
October 24, 2014, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
November 17, 2012, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
November 7, 2012, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
May 16, 2012, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
November 18, 2010, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
November 17, 2010, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)
October 13, 2010, Desert Sun (Welwood Murray Memorial Library)