Since the mid-’60s, Sherman Library and Gardens has been a fixture on Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar.
Arnold D. Haskell bought the property in 1955. It then included a small adobe house and a small nursery. Over the next two decades Haskell expanded the site and named it Sherman Library and Gardens as a tribute to his mentor, Moses H. Sherman, an educator and early California pioneer who also lent his to the city of Sherman Oaks.
The idea to add on a library came to Haskell because he had all of Sherman’s papers – boxes and boxes of documents related to Sherman’s involvement with development in California. According the Sherman Gardens librarian Jill Thrasher, Haskell was a very successful man who believed in public libraries, and wanted a place where people could conduct research.
Today the focus of the two-story library is the history of the Pacific Southwest including California, Arizona, adjacent parts of Nevada, and the upper end of the Gulf of California.
Thrasher points out that because California and the surrounding areas grew so much more recently than most areas of the country, there is a tremendous amount of information that was recorded. Many original documents including papers detailing population growth, mining rights, water development, local histories, geography, and geology are housed in the library.
Thrasher plays a pivotal role in helping the users of the library – mainly scholars, genealogists, historians, authors, and environmental consultants – find what they are looking for.
“The resource that is used most frequently is the city directories,” said Thrasher. The city directories date back to 1890. An environmental consultant working with a developer can look up an address to see if there was a gas station or dry cleaners at a specific address, learning what may need to be tested for in the soil.
“There was a man writing a biography of Wyatt Earp and he used the directory to confirm some of his residences in California. Also, people love going through the directories, it is exciting to find their family members addresses from the ’40s or ’50s.”
While many of the documents are open to the public, there are also archives that are kept downstairs that are not. These archives are used mainly by scholars for research – Ph.D. candidates, masters level students and professors.
There was one historian Thrasher spoke of who has a keen interest in the citrus industry. He has used the library for much of his research and even had access to old citrus crate labels to study.
The library also houses old photographs for the Newport Beach Historical Society. The photographs are available for the public to look at and Thrasher can make photocopies, scan the historical photographs or send copies out for a fee.
The map collection is unique to the Sherman Library.
“We have two map cases filled with historic maps of the area. Even one that shows California as an island,” said Thrasher.
The library frequently hosts authors and lecturers. This Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. Douglas Westfall, a writer, lecturer, and publisher who has written historical materials over the last two decades, will be speaking at the Library. He will take a look at aviation during World War II and discuss the book “Rain of Fire – B-29 Over Japan, 1945” by Charles L. Phillips, Jr.
More information about Douglass Westfall can be found at www.specialbooks.com,
The event is free for members and non-members, but an RSVP to 949-673-2261 is highly recommended as coffee and cookies will be served.
The Sherman Library and Gardens is at 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar
Library hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.