Letter: ‘Friends of Our 1913 Library’


The Friends of Our 1913 Library are fully in favor of a new library building, as a neighbor to the preserved 1913 section of the current library, but with the town looking towards greater tourism and economic development, and with it holding itself out as a destination for those interested in seeing fine architecture, it is ironic indeed that it appears poised to allow the total, and unnecessary, demolition of 1913 which is the town’s most familiar, most admired and most used downtown public building. Such a momentous decision, with the potential for having for highly embarrassing publicity, could well hurt more than help that new town initiative.

Many prominent architects in town, including one whose grandfather was a mason involved in the building of it, are absolutely horrified at the prospect of the 1913 section of the current library being torn down unnecessarily with such comments as “a magnificent building, a gem,” “a building with the absolute highest level of architectural detailing,” “it has an exceptionally high quality of architectural design,” “by far the best building architecture in downtown,” “keeping it should be an absolute no brainer,” “I cannot imagine how anyone could be even thinking of tearing it down.”

A professional report prepared by experts in historic buildings finds the building to be in extremely good shape. The library’s flooding and leaking problems are not caused by the oldest parts of the library.  Unfortunately, the unwillingness of the library administration to consider, or even hear of any alternate plan, which could keep 1913, has the makings of very protracted dispute which well could result in a referendum. The library’s leadership’s characterization of even the oldest parts of the current library as an “eyesore” with the firm demand that all of it must “leave the property,” in favor of some extremely costly green space is short sighted, and could well start hurting the libraries worthy efforts towards the new and better library building.

The town green idea appears to have been born of not knowing what to do with the former library building when the administration no longer has any use for it. Bulldozing it, grassing it over and naming it a new town green seems like the quickest and easiest way to cope with it. However, the plans for the town green warrants much closer scrutiny before endorsement. As drawn, carved up into four spaces separated by three unsafe retaining walls has resulted in a proposed green area which would be hugely expensive, uninviting, chronically inaccessible and a seriously dysfunctional space. Elaborate and costly sitting areas with their back to the very town green proposed, and with a view only of Morse Court, and the backed-up traffic along route 106 and route 124 makes no sense. Depicting this as a welcoming new downtown park is unconvincing. As proposed, it could well become a very high maintenance, barely used space.

The library’s firm decision to destroy the whole of the old building appears to stem largely from the interference that it could give to just one particular view of the new library from the corner of Cherry Street and Main Street. However, the new library building will be highly prominent coming into town along South Avenue and from Maple Street and from Main Street, and it is being positioned more than 70 feet from its 1913 neighbor and ancestor. The two buildings are well apart and can very well complement each other, both functionally and aesthetically.

The solution to this dilemma, already proposed by the town council member Tom Butterworth, is not at all complicated and is one which would not cost the library funds, nor hold up the development of the plans and fundraising for the new building. With financial support from responsible, strongly interested parties, it would give the town the option, one year from now, to purchase the land needed and to take over the oldest parts of the current library and to make whatever improvements are necessary to it so that it could continue to be recognized and appreciated and used well into the future. Such an option, attached to funding approvals now, would cost nothing. This looks like a far better long-term solution and is likely receive much greater acceptance within the town community than allowing the library’s current plan to proceed unchecked of putting the entire building into a dumpster. As decisions are being made very soon about the future of the library, it is hoped that endorsement and support for this approach can become and communicated directly to members of the Town Council, Board of Finance and Selectmen.

More information about it can be found on this website.

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