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La Jollan acquires Copley Library building for his own collection

The former Copley Library in La Jolla has a new owner and a new name, but its function as a public archive will remain unchanged.

“The good news for La Jolla is it will not be sold as feared to a real estate developer who would have gutted it and turned it into high-end condominiums,” said La Jolla financier Kevin Kinsella. “I paid $3.75 million for it, and I will maintain it as a library for my collection of art, books and fossils and as an exhibit for things of significance to La Jolla.”

The Copley library collection featuring a world-class collection of historical books and manuscripts funded by Copley Newspapers in 1966 was not part of the sale. Kinsella said those materials are to be sold by Sotheby’s international auction house, starting on April 14.

Kinsella, a La Jollan who lives in Luddington Heights, runs San Diego-based Avalon Ventures, a private venture capital fund. He was delighted to acquire the magnificent building, which he described as looking like “it dropped out of Harvard yard or something.”

He noted the 15,000-square-foot building he purchased at 1134 Kline St. would be the new repository for his rare collections. He is one of the largest collectors of memorabilia from “Jersey Boys,” a documentary-style musical based on the lives of the 1960s rock ‘n’ roll group the Four Seasons, which debuted at La Jolla Playhouse in 2004. He noted the musical went on to a long run on Broadway and has since become a megahit about to top $1 billion in worldwide revenues.

“I have going on six years of memorabilia from all the Jersey Boys shows, the Tony Awards and Olivia Awards and the gold and platinum CDs,” he said. “We had nowhere to display it (before) in a comprehensive way, and now it will be one of the exhibit rooms in the library.”

To be renamed the Kinsella Library, the facility will be remodeled to house offices for its new owner as well as additional exhibit space for Kinsella’s other unique collectibles. “My wife Tamara and I collect California plein air art,” he said. “We have modest collections of fossils from the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.”

Kinsella said his new library needs a little remodeling before it can be reopened.

“We’re going to put in a couple of windows in exactly the same style that are there,” he said. “It’s a little closed-in, almost mausoleum-like, so we want to open it up a little. But there really will just be minor changes to the inside.”

The Kinsella Library will be open to the public during selected hours and for private tours.

The Copley collection that has been housed in the building includes works and research materials on the American Revolutionary War, the Southwest, John Charles Fremont, Jessie Benton Fremont, Robinson Jeffers, Benito Juarez, Abraham Lincoln and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Presidential correspondence and limited edition books are part of the collection as well.

“It will all be auctioned by Sotheby’s during nine auctions beginning April 14,” he said.

Having acquired a new library, Kinsella said he feels like a preserver now as well a collector.

“It’s just such a beautiful depository of knowledge,” he said. “I’m just glad to have had a hand in maintaining it so it did not fall to a developer’s wrecking ball.”