Mission Branch Library
24th Between Bartlett and Orange Alley
Leo Lentelli was one of San Francisco’s more prolific and well known sculptors during his time. Sadly very little of his work survives inside of the city. There is a beautiful piece at the Hunter Dunlin building downtown, and this sculpture over the original entry door on 24th Street of the Mission Branch Library.
Lentelli, an immigrant from Italy spent 1914-1918 in San Francisco. During that time he did a series of equestrian statues that were part of the Court of the Universe and his sculptures of Water Sprites for the Court of Abundance for the Pan Pacific Exposition
Lentelli created “Five Symbolic Figures,” a series of five statues representing Art, Literature, Philosophy, Science and Law, that were placed between the pillars above the entrance to the Old Main Library at Larkin Street. These works, made of cast stone were installed in 1918, the year after the Library opened, and were not intended to be permanent. Sadakichi Hartmann, writing for the Architecture and Engineer in 1918, praised these works for “their sturdiness of conception and attitude, their decorative expression, and a certain swing and freedom of handling.” To my horror upon learning this, and to the detriment of all, the Asian Art Museum, when taking over and renovating the Library, found that these works had deteriorated so much that no attempt was made to retain or restore them.
The Mission Branch Library is part of the group of libraries built in San Francisco with William Carnegie monies, this particular building was built under the design guidelines of the Carnegie Standards.