Letter: Take the Time To Preserve 1913 Library Building 


Original 1913 New Canaan Library building.

I am writing in support of saving from demolition some of the original architectural features of the New Canaan Library version 1913 and incorporating these features into the new New Canaan Library version 2023.

From my perspective, we are fortunate to live in a town where we treat each other with respect; we teach our children to treat their elders and friends and teachers alike with respect. We live in a bucolic environment where the community is invested in the maintenance of our way of life, the quality of our life, and the traditions that make this lifestyle so desirable and aesthetically pleasing. We fight for our schools and our school’s budget, our parks and sporting fields alike, and services to our community, our elderly and our frail. We do not mind paying higher taxes so we can support these qualities of life we hold most dear, while preserving them for our future recreation, our appreciation and our future generations in “next station to heaven.”

Our historical district on God’s Acre is a perfect example of this. We are lucky to have a town that appreciates the beauty of architecture from days past. Waveny mansion and Carriage Barn are additional examples of this priority and preservation in New Canaan. A few years ago, we planted a time capsule in God’s Acre, with the intention to recover it after a certain time lapsed for us to reflect on how life had been for us at an earlier time and to acknowledge how things had changed from then to now.

Our wonderful New Canaan Historical Society on Oenoke Ridge in the historical district has brought several significant exhibits to our community recently. In 2019, WPA Art was highlighted. The New Deal Arts was created during the depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Plan, which put 8,500,000 Americans to work during the bleakest years of the Great Depression. WPA artists include Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Lee Krasner.

Many of the fabulous murals highlighted during this exhibition currently adorn our schools,  our government buildings, while some of it graces other towns’ government buildings. Some New Canaan WPA Art is still in storage, awaiting restoration and placement. The New Canaan Historical Society has also featured many other popular exhibits from days gone by, “Shoes,” and many others appreciated by our erudite community.

Last but not least, our town is lucky to pay homage to several iconic examples of Mid-century modern Architecture, designed by The Harvard 5 architects. These homes were built here during the late 1940’s. Four are now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places: the Landis Gores House, the Richard and Geraldine Hodgson House, the Philip Johnson Glass House, and the Noyes  House.

In the new New Canaan Library, our town leaders have committed to contributing $10,000,000, (generously funded by our taxpayers) to our newest town centered library campus. No doubt our new Library will bring our community together in many wonderful ways to fulfill the needs of all of our residents. It is estimated this library could help to generate as much as $6 million in new consumer spending per year in our local economy, certainly drawing people to our community from the competing suburbs of Darien, Greenwich and Westport.

My question is this: With so many wonderful historical New Canaan icons of art and architecture and the social protocols that have become part of New Canaan life, the commitment of time and energy and talent to accomplish this goal of creating a world class community resource, I wonder, is there a way to incorporate a small piece of our beautiful, historic building, revered by many, including members of a local preservation group. Is it possible the historical facade of the original fieldstone building perched above the corner of Main and Cherry Streets can be preserved and incorporated into this new 48,000-square-foot building design?

The new New Canaan Library will be replete with all that can be offered as a state of the art facility: a glass-and-stone exterior, 300-seat auditorium, rooftop terrace, café, public concourse, fireplace, two large conference rooms and “town green.” Would it be too much to incorporate some historical aspects of the predecessor  library? Can we afford to take the time to consider the cost of inclusion, or the cost of exclusion, to our underwriting community?

I can envision a town Library that juxtaposes original architectural detail version 1913 with that of our version 2023 new New Canaan Library, which will embody a modern architectural lifestyle rich with ancestry from the original form. I believe that, given time, we can find a way to incorporate these precious details important to many with forward looking, modern day designs of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thank you for your consideration.


Lisa Vasquez

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