The Library is a three-story structure of reinforced concrete in the Spanish-Colonial style, at the north end of the campus, the main facade facing south toward the Seminary and overlooking a long garden patterned after the garden laid out by Mr. Doheny at his Chester Place residence. The architect chosen to plan this building was Wallace Neff.
The famous baptistry of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City is the inspiration for the Memorial Library. The main entrance motif, with its magnificent arch of carved stone, is derived from the Cathedral. In a niche over the entrance is a statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Along each side, a loggia runs the width of the building.
The FIRST FLOOR consists of the main reading room and the most recent periodical selections. It also contains the library’s collection of theological literature and stacks section located in the book wing.
The SECOND FLOOR, which is reached both by elevator and staircase, was for many years devoted entirely to Countess Doheny’s collections of rare books and objects of art, including a large paperweight collection, a petrified wood fireplace, western art and historical works, Currier and Ives prints, Luis XV furniture, jade carvings, Sevres vases, lacework and one of the most complete Guttenburg Bibles in the world. These artifacts were sold in auction in 1987 in order to set up the Doheny Endowment which continues to fund seminary functions. The seminary has held on to a page from the Guttenburg, paperweights and some rare books as reminders of the generosity of the Doheny family to St. John’s.
Today, the second floor is used for meeting space, receptions and student projects. The Library Salon, on the west side of the building is an elegant room with chandeliers, a fireplace, piano, large dining area and sitting room. The Salon contains the audio and video collection and is used for some formal gatherings including music recitals. Paintings of Carrie Estelle and Edward L. Doheny still hang on either side of the fireplace.
On the east side at the front of the Library, is the TREASURE ROOM, which formerly housed Countess Doheny’s rare books and manuscripts. The Treasure Room is paneled in walnut and recessed shelves of walnut, protected by bronze grilles, line the walls, while two windows of exquisitely etched glass depict the apparition of the Miraculous Medal. A balcony fills one end of this chamber, with shelves running to the ceiling. The room has been renamed THE SEMINARY BOARD ROOM, since presently this is where faculty meetings, the Seminary Board of Directors and other official seminary gatherings take place.
Beyond the Board Room, to the north, is the MISSION ROOM. This room was designed to accommodate, at one end, a large fireplace of petrified wood which Mr. Doheny brought from Arizona and it derived its original name, the Western Room, from the painting of Indian and cowboy life collected by him. The present room is used as a class and meeting room and has been adorned with a panoramic mural depicting the California missions located in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The mural was painted by Jim Foder of Santa Barbara, California.