Serving the University District since 1906

In 1906, the first location of the University Branch opened in the University Pharmacy, which was at the entrance to the University of Washington. Several months later it moved to the nearby University M.E. Church.

In 1908, Andrew Carnegie donated $105,000 for three branch libraries in Seattle; one of them was in the University District. The same year, Watson and Cornelia Allen donated land for the branch at its current location.

After a design competition, architects W. Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Coté designed the two-level branch, which cost $38,935 to build. The branch began serving the public Aug. 6, 1910.


"The Seven Liberal Arts" by Dennis Evans

Artwork by Dennis Evans at the University Branch
Artwork by Dennis Evans at the University Branch

Artist Dennis Evans was commissioned to create two pieces of artwork each for five of Seattle's historic Carnegie-era libraries. Building on the ideas of learning, education, and history, Evans linked the libraries with paintings based on the seven liberal arts. Called the “Seven Liberal Arts Suite,” his work celebrates the seven branches of knowledge that initiate everyone into a life of learning. Each branch features one “reference painting” that is similarly composed at each location. The second art piece at each library is unique to that location and explores one of the seven liberal arts. The unique work featured at the University Branch explores the art of Geometry and Astronomy.


One of the oldest branch libraries in Seattle

Exterior view of the University Branch
Exterior view of the University Branch

The renovated University Branch is the 24th project completed under the "Libraries for All" building program.

The renovation of the historic branch was designed by Hoshide Williams Architects and built by Biwell Construction Inc.

Named Spaces

Spaces named for donors include the David R. Davis Reading Room.

David R. Davis grew up in Idaho, where his love of books quickly became evident. As a youngster, he worked for a printer who paid him in books, which Davis thought was a good deal. He entered the Navy in 1943 and studied medicine while serving in Korea. After the war, he moved to Bellevue where he was a general surgeon until 1997.