Item of the Week: The Second Annex

Published: October 7, 2010

The second annex is one of the  most important parts of the Clark Library, but is an area few visitors will ever actually see. Part of the underground stacks, the second annex contains the majority of our rare books, manuscripts and artwork, and its doors are locked at all times.  In 1968, however, when the second annex was finished, photographers snapped some rare shots of what things look like in this staff-only area.

Designed by architects Winston Cordes and Ralph Crosby, the second annex (like its sibling, the first annex, which mainly houses our reference collection) is located underneath the library’s vast central lawn.  Koppers, the company responsible for the waterproof cocoon, which keeps the annex safe and dry underneath the grass and the trees, were so proud of the job they had done that they sent out press releases comparing the project to the Fort Knox of books.

Assistant Librarian Virginia Wong, looking pleased to be so snug underground

As their press release stated, “It’s fireproof, earthquake-proof, and waterproof, even though sprinklers operate daily above it.”  It even appears that they had pictures taken to support their publicity efforts, most of which are included in this post.  They were taken by Hollywood photographer Delmar Watson.

Today, the second annex looks largely the same as it does in these 1968 images and the cocoon has done its job very very well (apart from a mold outbreak several years ago which resulted in the closure of the library).

Virginia Wong, in the stacks

This last image is not related to the construction of the second annex, but it was also taken the same day in 1968, and I can’t resist sharing it.  The Clark’s lounge has gone through a lot of transformations in the last several years, and though the staff has been working on making it a bit more comfortable, this photo shows us how far we have to strive in order to bring it back to its former glory.

The Clark lounge in the swinging sixties

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Chuck Bass on

When I worked there as a student, in downtime, I once (or thrice?) walked the perimeter of the 2nd annex with the lights off, which really imparted a feeling of how huge the annex is.

Now, how about a thrilling post on the installation of the compact shelving?

Chris Bulock on

Those are all wonderful photographs indeed. I’m sure there’s some foundation out there that would support a restoration of the lounge.

Lewis H. Whitaker on

Hear hear, Chris! That’s one swingin’ lounge. I’d contribute to a fund for tricking it out old school style.

Patrick on

I remember the lounge when it still felt like a lounge, similar to the photo from the swinging sixties. It was so cozy, I once fell asleep on the couch. Those were the good old days.

Any photos of various Clark parties from years gone by? I remember hearing about Easter egg hunts and croquet on the north lawn.

hannah p. clark on

We all wish there were still room for a couch! But we are trying to make it a tiny bit cozier… Hopefully one day we will also be able to make it classy, like it was in 1968.

Patrick, yes, there are definitely photos of such things. Just the other day, we located the photo album containing the famous 1981 croquet party, and behind the scenes shots of Richard Chamberlain shooting the Thorn Birds in the drawing room. We [meaning Becky] are re-appraising and organizing the Clarkive and finding all kinds of things, so there will definitely be many more photographic revelations to come.

Jamie on

Well, if you can’t restore the lounge to its former orange and avocado glory, you could at least post a picture of that mockup with the fabric bits. XD Crazy times. I love those publicity pictures of the second annex!!

Lewis H. Whitaker on

I say we raise money for a full 60s retrovation and name it “Hannah’s Hideout,” or “Hannah’s House of Blues,” or “The Cat’s Meow.” Who’s with me?

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