Katie Wheeler Branch Library is a historical re-construction of the Irvine family residence that burned in 1965 and was demolished in 1968. The house is within the boundary of the Irvine Ranch Headquarters Historic Park. The Irvine family residence was originally constructed in 1876, and underwent three distinct remodelings. Its style was eclectic with Ranch, Colonial Revival and most recently, Craftsman elements. The residence had a partial basement with two floors above. The first floor had ±3,400 s.f. and contained the major living spaces. The second floor was ±3,260 s.f. and provided the sleeping and bathrooms. Both floors had porches, decks and verandahs. In 1999, the need to construct a branch library to serve the adjacent community was determined and a feasibility study was commissioned to evaluate the possible historical reconstruction of the Irvine family residence as a branch library. The report concluded the historical reconstruction was a good choice due to location and exciting prospect of its contribution to the historic park. Historic photographs helped identify landscape and other site elements such as stone curbs, arbors and small birdbath. All of these elements were reproduced in their original locations.    


The exterior elements of the residence were developed to incorporate the historic scale, massing, fenestration and materials by carefully inspecting both the “as-built” drawings and historic photographs. At the interior, the challenge was to integrate the large spaces needed for a functional branch library into a former residence with many rooms. It became apparent that the large number of rooms would need to be reduced to affect a useable space. While the rooms need to be combined, the design still used portions of walls and material changes to indicate the location and size of major rooms: living room, sun porch, dining room sitting room at the lower level and the master bedroom suite at the upper level. The main stairway was faithfully reproduced and the second stairway was placed very close to the original secondary stair. The three original fireplaces were reproduced in their original location. Moldings in the major rooms were reproduced and carpeting was selected to be reminiscent of the floral designs seen in historical photographs.

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