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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Windows and Roof of the Main Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 13, 2016

As the planning and review of the Main Library building was taking place to make the facility accessible to all, a major review of the condition and systems of the 1902 building was taking place.


The building is still heated with the original steam radiators, and a fairly new boiler.  Air conditioning was added about 1970, and some of that equipment has been upgraded.


Electrical systems have been replaced over the years.


Much of the water and sewer systems have been extended and added, but the basic inaccessible plumbing is the original 1902 editions.


Two of the building’s systems are more accessible and visible, that being the windows and roof.


With the decision made to “reuse” the original Carnegie Building, we needed to review those aspects of the building as well.


The wood framed windows were actually manufactured in a factory in 1901; they were not hand-crafted as one might expect.


In 1968, aluminum-framed storm windows were installed on the exterior which protected the originals and provided a limited ability of energy efficiency.


As most staff could tell you, the old windows rattled badly on a windy day and they leaked air even with storm windows in place.


We were fortunate that the Connellsville Library in Pa. was constructed the same year as the Main Library here, and had the exact same wood windows manufactured by a Pittsburgh factory.


They had gone through the same review process, and we were able to examine possible replacement windows using their experience.


We also reviewed photos taken when the library building was new in 1902, but it was difficult to tell the original color from black & white photos.


Our architect found a hidden corner of one of the windows that contained the original layers of paint from the latest beige down to the original “evergreen.”


This matched historical architectural information from the era. 


The architect was also able to located historically correct reproduction windows from the Marvin Window Company, which could also match the original color.


Fortunately, the original window frames were in good condition, and could be used to support the new replacement windows.


The window replacement project was completed a year ago, and the efficiency was immediately apparent as we had to keep readjusting the heating system to compensate for the new environment.


The other issue, the roof, was found to be in good condition.  The 1956 slate roof, which replaced the red clay tile original, is still in good condition with continued maintenance.


However, there are four little flat roofs that are part of the system, and two of those needed complete replacement.


The work has just been completed, neither of which is visible from the street level.


Our maintenance staff reports that they will make those areas serviceable for years to come.


I sometimes wonder about the staff and committees that planned and implemented the Main Library building some 116 years ago; could they have looked to the future to know that the building remains operational so many years later?