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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.

The Big Crane

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 18, 2018


If you have traveled by the Main Library in Steubenville recently, you have probably noticed the tall crane in-place that towers over the Carnegie building.


It has certainly brought questions and interest to the Main Library renovation and addition project.


As part of the design phase of the project, we had a “Subsurface Investigation Report” prepared for the area of the new building behind the existing building.


Downtown Steubenville sits on the former riverbed, and the core drillings exposed primarily “brown silty clay sand” as the subsurface materials under the new building.


Five borings were performed to a depth of 40-60 feet to determine the subsurface materials with no bedrock found.  Documentation of the area shows that bedrock is found 70 feet below the surface and old coal mines twice that depth if they extend under the library site.


Since the new addition is a 2-story building, and a library building has an intermediate weight load, the foundations must be designed to deal with that load factor.


So, the crane is on-site so that “auger-cast foundation piles” can be installed into the ground to support the new building.


The piles will extend an average of 40 feet into the former riverbed.


The 117 year old Carnegie building is supported with a cut stone foundation that extends two stones below the basement floor, and then the stones are turned perpendicular to the walls and sits on a compacted gravel base.


It has been fascinating to listen to engineers evaluate the old and new building.  One person estimated that the outside walls of the Carnegie building weighs 2,000 tons and that no excavation should undermine that portion of the structure.


Regardless, work is underway on the foundations and utilities.


Speaking of utilities, the hunt was on for the 1901 sewer line that services the Library, and it was located 9 feet below the sidewalk.


In the pile of soil removed from the hole, I found a clay tile pipe that had been cemented into a glazed tile bell.  I thought it might be an interesting piece to save as it looks like a flower vase.


Yes, I did wash it thoroughly before placing it on the shelf by my desk to serve as a flower vase.


It was interesting that one part of the sewer pipe is a plain play tile, cemented into the bell end of another clay tile that is a beautiful glazed piece with intricate decoration.


It was not part of the main sewer line as it is only a 4 inch section, so perhaps it is part of the brick house that formerly occupied the library site pre-1899.


The house and site was purchased from the Joseph Sarratt Estate for the library, and the house was carefully demolished and the brick reused for some of the interior structure of the library building.


The other common question is why the Main Library has to be closed during construction?


While it appears the building is simply sitting here unused, the back portion including restrooms was demolished.  The lower level has been completely emptied for renovation as the utilities for the new building pass through the old building.


The remaining building simply cannot remain open during this major construction project, as only the main floor will remain untouched.


The children’s books are all boxed and stored 7 boxes high in the South Room, and about half of the other books are inaccessible at this time.


Completion is scheduled for Dec. 20, 2018.