It has come to the attention of a number of concerned citizens of our town that on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, the New Canaan Library will be presenting to the Board of Finance an update to their plan for a new library building as part of a request for funding of same. As a citizen of our town, a user of our library’s services, a former volunteer at the Library and a practicing preservationist and preservation advocate, the fate of the current building, specifically the original landmark 1913 building, has been a concern.
I was fortunate and appreciative to be asked to view the library’s plan this past November. Certainly, what has been developed is impressive and could be considered a “gift” to our community. However, as I have gathered for quite some time, there was no inclusion in the plans for the retention of any portion of the existing building including the original building which has been an icon in our community since its inception. This is beyond comprehension to me and many in our community.
I respect that the library has been working on their plans for quite some time and the current design is the result of years of discussion, review, and design. While I question the conclusion that the existing, and specifically the original, library cannot be retained, I personally do not oppose the library’s effort to provide increased services to our town. Many, actually most, communities in Connecticut have increased their library services while maintaining and honoring their original landmark building and the results have been exceptional both architecturally and functionally.
It was noted during my viewing of the library’s plans that the location of the 1913 Library building is designated as a “town green.” It would seem this opens the window for an opportunity to retain the 1913 library. In response to the gracious viewing afforded me by the library, I have asked of the library two things:
- An on-site review of the building by me and other building professionals with experience in building preservation to better understand and determine the status of the structure.
- If a group is formed the purpose of which is to work to save the original 1913 landmark building, that the library work with this group towards achieving this goal.
The response from the library was, “We will give your correspondence due consideration before responding.”
I ask from the Board of Finance that the topic of the fate of this iconic New Canaan landmark be given more than due consideration. Stated directives in the Plan of Conservation and Development (Under Section 3, “Preserve and Enhance Community Character,” page 13-27) are: A—Encourage Preservation of Historic Resources; and B—Support Historic Preservation Efforts. Indeed, one of the images submitted by residents as representative of the “types of things people feel contribute to the overall character of New Canaan” is the 1913 library building.
In your review and consideration of the library’s request, please determine if the library intends to retain the 1913 building and if not why. If the response is that the existing building, including the 1913 portion, is beyond repair, the follow up question would be whether this determination was made by professionals experienced in building preservation and additions to historic properties.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Rose-Scott Long Rothbart