The famous spiral staircase at the Mechanics’ Institute in San Francisco.
It was Benjamin Franklin’s original idea. In 1731 in Philadelphia, he organized a group of his fellow inventors, mechanics, and free-spirited friends—all with limited means—in order to pool their resources and start a private library of their own. At that time, only wealthy book collectors had access to reference books, and literature, history and philosophy texts.
The Library Company of Philadelphia that Franklin eventually started—a subscription library where members paid ten shillings a year to maintain and grow the collection—still exists to this day on Locust Street in Philadelphia (today it’s non-circulating but free and open to the public).
A century later, a group of skilled machinists, carpenters, builders, and manufacturers hoped to stimulate the growth of the brand new city of San Francisco, that had just experienced a surge in population due to the gold rush. Borrowing from Franklin’s subscription model and the principles of George Birkbeck’s mechanics institute of London, they wanted to create a library with open stacks with free access for all members.
Unfortunately the original building was destroyed in a fire after the 1906 earthquake, and so it ended up merging with the Mercantile Library Association, and dropped its …read more

Via: Melville House Books