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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.

A Century of a Library Building

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 22, 2006


When you own a 100-year-old building, you have 100 years of building records, especially if the building is a library.


Librarians keep things, and have files for everything.


The Main Library Carnegie Building was opened in March 1902, and 1910 paperwork shows that the roof was leaking after only eight years.


The little flat roof over the spiral staircase has always been a problem, and the Board grumbled that it should have been designed differently.


We would say the same in 2006.


Within the first decade of use, it was clear that the sidewalk paths were inadequate for pedestrians approaching the library.


Streetcar customers exited on 4th Street and entered the library up the wide steps, but many people approached the library from the west.


Young users would climb the wall and walk across the yard to the main entrance.


By 1910, side walkways had been added to accommodate customers from the west.


In 1915, the Board purchased an "electric sign" which was placed on the front of the building stating, "library."


That sign was evidently large in size, a bright for a residential neighborhood.  It disappeared after a few years.


Until 1962, the building had a stone sign over the door.  After that was removed, a colonial sign served the purpose in the yard, until replaced by the current sign in 1997.


Original photos of the 1902 building show no landscaping. 


Actually, most photos of buildings of that era show little landscaping by today's standards.  A tree in the center of the yard was the extent of landscaping.


The building had both electricity and gas for lighting, although the gas connections were never used and shortly disconnected or removed.


Exterior lighting consisted of multi-globe standards attached to the parapet walls on either side of the front steps.


By the 1920s, those fixtures had disappeared for reasons unknown, and a wooden pole appeared in the front yard, with a light and bare bulb, with a wire dangling to the building.


In 1951, new exterior lights were installed, but the parapet wall lights were not replaced.


That had to wait until 1989 when reproduction light fixtures from the 1930 era were installed and new fixtures were placed on the parapet walls on the side of the front steps.


Most documentation related to the library building relates to the tower and roof.


The original 1902 tower stood 105 ft. from ground level, and terminated in a point with round openings for a never-installed clock on all four sides.


Within 10 years, the flashing between the pointed roof and round surface of the round openings was leaking.  Each time, an experienced roofer made the climb up the tower stairs to make his repair.


Each time, the flashing began to leak, eventually damaging the stone and brick.


By the 1940s, pieces of masonry were falling from the tower, breaking the clay tile roof shingles.  The shingles were replaced by rolled roofing.


In 1956, the library gathered together every spare dime in the library budget to have the top 35 ft of the tower removed, and a new slate roof installed on the main roof.


That has been the look for the past 50 years, the lines of the original tower only a memory in photos.


Have we been good stewards of the building?  Only time will tell.