The original New Canaan Library—a grid of steel beneath it, hovering five feet in the air—is expected to start moving Friday toward its new destination on the organization’s campus, officials say.
The move likely will take a few days, meaning it could be on its new foundation next Tuesday, according to Keith Burton, project manager for Wolfe House & Building Movers.
“Initially we were going to be moving it on dollies, which is a different type of move,” Burton told NewCanaanite.com. “In this case here—because of ground levels, grade levels, that sort of thing—we’re going to be using a ‘slide steel system.’ Beginning on Friday we’ll start the move off of the site. And it will be a multi-day process. What it will entail is we’ll be moving the building along steel rails, and then there’s going to be some sort of lateral shift within that move. I’m not sure exactly at what point that’s going to happen, but we’ll set up steel to do a lateral move on the same slide steel system to align with the new foundation. And then we will return back directly onto the foundation at that point.”
The widely anticipated moving of the 1913 building will clear the way for the organization to develop its widely anticipated green overlooking Main and Cherry Streets—the final major phase of the overall library project, with the celebrated new building open since February.
Onlookers will be able to watch the move from across Main Street or from Morse Court—the Cherry and Main sidewalks on the library block will be blocked off during the relocation, officials say.
New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham said, “We are so excited because this marks the beginning of the project to construct the green, which we should see moving forward very quickly now that the legacy building will be on its new foundation at the western side of the property.”
The relocation of the original building has already yielded some unexpected and welcome results.
Library officials long have known that a time capsule had been placed somewhere under the building’s northeast corner, Oldham said.
“What we weren’t sure about was whether it was inside the foundation or whether it was buried under the building,” she said. “With the work that had been done, a lot of excavation under the building had already happened and they worked very carefully in that corner, thinking we would find it under the building. We didn’t. So that meant that every time, when they started working on separating the legacy building from its foundations, they were cognizant that it could be somehow incorporated within the foundation. And last Friday afternoon they unexpectedly found it in a hollowed-out cornerstone on that corner. The men who were working on that corner, when they went to lift up that piece, the stone broke open because it was hollow and inside was the lead box.”
The time capsule contains well-preserved documents that the library currently is cataloging and safeguarding while connecting with conservation experts who can ensure their longevity, Oldham said.
“It’s super exciting,” she said. “It really helps to link us with our history. We intend to contact people who represent some of the groups that still exist that had placed documents there. We’ll plan to have an exhibition of these artifacts, but only once we’ve taken expert advice to make sure we’re really looking after them.”
Asked about the documents themselves, Oldham noted that at the time the capsule was buried, 110 years ago, “a lot was written in the local press about the insertion of this time capsule under the building, although I don’t believe that we have the specifics about it being inside a hollowed-out stone.”
“And in fact, you’ll remember this was 1913, the suffrage movement had begun, but it was still many years before women actually got the vote,” Oldham continued. “And apparently one of the suffragists who was at the burial of this time capsule said, Here we’re putting these documents in and hopefully in a hundred years’ time when this building comes down, women will have the vote by then. So I feel like everything is all very full circle.”
The library is working on plans for an updated time capsule at the new building, she added.
“We have long planned to create a new time capsule that will share with future New Canaanites those things which were important to the community in 2023,” Oldham said. “We look forward to collaborating with the community as we plan for the new capsule and will announce further details soon.”