Letter: Preserve the 1913 Historic Library


My name is Rebecca Serven, and I am a New Canaan High School alumna, class of 2017, currently studying Mechanical Engineering. I would like to take a moment to respond to the Op-Ed published earlier titled, “Critically Important’ To Move Forward with Current Plans to Rebuild New Canaan Library.”

I refuse to support a decision that destroys another piece of our history due to those who will not prioritize the wealth and beauty of New Canaan’s past, over their current individual interests.

It pains me to ask how much longer must the people fight for the preservation of our town’s heritage? From the Silvermine Tavern to the Maple Street Cemetery to the house on 8 Ferris Hill or even the Melba Inn on Park Street? And now, the time has come again to defend the preservation of the 1913 Main Street portion of our historic library.

In the past three expansions of our Library, in 1937, 1952, and 1979, the decision to retain the 1913 portion of the library had never been a question. The architects of those times still thought it to be paramount to adjust their plans to accommodate this space, despite its inconvenience to intended designs. Therefore, why is it only now that the 1913 part “compromises the visual integrity of the new library” and is an “out-of-place structure”? The two architectural firms, which are headquartered in New York City and Centerbrook, did not consider the heart of New Canaan’s history when designing the new library. In fact, it is ironic that the proposed plans are determined to disassemble the 1913 icon while the library’s website simultaneously markets itself as a cultural center of the community.

I ask of us to consider what integrity we have if our primary focus is to dispose of our town’s past. How will you look into the eyes of those to come, telling them that your myopic decision permanently destroyed a keystone of our history? And how will you look into the eyes of those of the present, telling them that your myopic decision made the places they loved just another memory?

I ask the community to consider what can be done to reimagine the presence of our town’s history, especially when we have already lost so much of it.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Rebecca Serven

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2021
B.S. Mechanical Engineering

6 thoughts on “Letter: Preserve the 1913 Historic Library

  1. In regard to your comment regarding the Cemetary: State of Connecticut officials, local officials, and studies have shown and continue to show the maple street cemetery has been preserved — no thanks to the group of residents who made it such an issue during approvals. Therefore your reference like others made by your family are just incorrect and misleading. We will be doing more to preserve the cemetery that no one cared about for 100 years than all the “preservationists “ who spoke out but have done nothing to maintain this part of history. So please watch your comments or be prepared to actually do something to maintain and preserve the cemetery you mention.

  2. Mr. Karp,
    I acknowledge that areas such as the Maple Street cemetery and the 8 Ferris Hill home have been saved. My comment on these, and other additional historic properties, was to demonstrate how New Canaan has needed to fight for preservation. The town itself is not inspired to take these initiatives independently.

    In regards to your statements about the Maple Street cemetery, I would like to remind you, as the builder of Merritt Village, that it was not in your interest to protect the cemetery. In fact, the original plans for Merritt Village did not account for the cemetery at all. It was only when groups of residents, historians, and preservationists, like myself, raised attention to the matter, did you take action to preserve it. Overall, I am thankful that the Merritt Village apartments will accommodate the Maple Street cemetery. However, I understand that its protection was catalyzed when members of our community fought to keep it.

    As a final comment, I would kindly ask that you do not make remarks about my family. I speak on behalf of my own will and firmly believe in the preservation of our town’s history. Some things are always worth advocating for and protecting.

    • Mike:
      With all due respect (and you do know that i respect you and the NewCanaanite –even copy editing for free), i do think it is long overdue in time to drop comments from readers relating Arnold Karp or Karp Associates to the cemetery on South and Maple. No pun intended,, but you are really beating a dead horse on this issue as it relates to Arnold!
      That was a great photo of Arnold and his key guy Paul Stone in the story you had about Merritt Village.
      Besides the building of housing that will be senior friendly — the first in decades after all the talk about the need for it — Arnold and his extended family contribute quietly to the community in many ways — the New Canaan YMCA and the hospice off Den Rd in Stamford just being two examples.
      It’s really time for the community to give him a break on this issue.

  3. As a member of the family that owned and operated the Melba Inn for over 75 years, I can tell you that it was a very difficult business to run and the property was always costly to maintain. Because it was privately owned (but uniquely zoned) we were able to make the decisions that worked best for our family and the business. I asked my father, Bill Bach, if he wanted to consider making the Melba a historical designated building – he was ready to disown me!

  4. Rebecca— the “preservationists” did absolutely nothing that helped save the cemetery on maple and south. Additionally the preservationists have done absolutely nothing to save or maintain the cemetery as can be shown by the condition that the property has been left in. It was m2 partners as the developers that offered to include the preservation of the cemetery into our plan. In spite of the hurdles the “ preservationists “ tried to raise M2 hired and paid for the consultants and will be fencing the area to maintain it for years to come. True preservationists have to learn to work with the public and developers to come up with a plan that works—just saying it has to be a certain way or not at all —-is not a plan.

  5. Thank you Rebecca for the letter. I agree with all your points. I am scratching my head as to why we can’t keep it. The new library design would keep it in the green area and would be a great asset to the town. It could serve as a reading room, an art gallery, or how about gallery discussing the history of the architecture of New Canaan. Thank you for a thoughtful letter.

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