Hunt Foods Foundation Library
201 S Basque Avenue, Fullerton, California
Designed by Modernist architect William Pereira, this branch of the Fullerton Public Library was built in 1962 with funds donated by industrialist and philanthropist Norton Simon. A world-class art collector, Simon was the founder and president of Fullerton-based Hunt Foods and Industries. The 10,500-square-foot Hunt Library adjoined Hunt’s four-story headquarters, also designed by Pereira. The complementary steel and glass buildings feature T-shaped columns that flair at the top; both are set on raised terrace plinths with integral benches and railings. Pereira was a major force in California architecture during this period: besides the Hunt, he was Master Architect of the UC Irvine campus and the developing city of Irvine. He also was co-designer of the iconic Theme building at LAX, designed CBS Television City in Los Angeles, the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, and the Laguna Playhouse.
Simon donated $500,000 to the city of Fullerton to build the library. Statues by Rodin, Rubens, and Giacometti were on the grounds of the Hunt buildings, while Simon loaned works by Picasso, Cézanne, Degas, Gorky, and others from his growing collection to the Hunt. "The world's finest collection of 19th and 20th century art ever assembled through a corporate foundation may be found on the library and its grounds at 201 S. Basque Avenue," wrote Jack Boettner in 1968 in The Los Angeles Times. Simon and the Hunt Foods and Industries Foundation offered another $500,000 to build a major art museum in Fullerton but an agreement could never be made. After Simon retired, the Norton Simon Museum opened in Pasadena.
In 1964, the Hunt Foods and Industries’ office and library buildings were nominated for the prestigious R. S. Reynolds Memorial Award, which was an international competition awarded by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
The library closed in 2013 due to a lack of funding and concerns over a growing transient population, according to the Orange County Register. The city is currently leasing the building to Grace Ministries International. Part of the surrounding grounds is fenced off as dog parks and the library needs some repair. Past its 50-year-milestone, the Hunt is a candidate for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The contract that specified the building can only be used as a library expired.