Letters To The Editor

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NewCanaanite.com received the following submitted letters.

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What a travesty to destroy one of the most amazing constructions in our towns history. Have we lost all concern for history, class and quality?

—Sidney (Pepper) and Candy Creamer Sweet

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My name is Hilary Ormond, and my family and I live in New Canaan.  I am a stay-at-home mom of two young children, and I write to express my full support for the plans for the new library that are currently under consideration.  It is past time for New Canaan to have a library that is worthy of the town it represents, the special guests it attracts, and the programs it hosts. Moreover, New Canaan is sorely in need of meeting space for its residents, especially as we emerge from the pandemic.  The new library — with it plans for abundant indoor and outdoor spaces — will provide plenty of options for its residents.

I understand there is a small but vocal movement to preserve the “1913” portion of the existing library.  While I think there is a way to honor the history that that building represents, keeping the actual building there seems unworkable and counterproductive, and after careful and thoughtful consideration, I cannot support that.

When we were considering which Fairfield County town to which to move in 2013, one of the “mommy and me” classes my daughter and I attended was “Book Babies” at the New Canaan library.  It was there that we made the friends that are still my and my eldest child’s closest friends today, and which solidified New Canaan as our top choice.  But it isn’t the stone or bricks or mortar that evokes the fond memory of that time, or that inspired us to choose New Canaan as our home, as the 1913 preservationists might have one believe; it is the feeling I got, and continue to get, from the library, its employees, its content and its other users. I submit, that is what makes a library — and ultimately, the Town it services and reflects — special.

I sincerely hope that Town officials move forward expeditiously to approve the current plans for the New Canaan library.

Hilary Ormond

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Is the town in which I grew up still the one next to heaven? Please add my voice to those of us crying out—not, I hope, in the wilderness—to preserve one of the most beautiful buildings in our beautiful town, the 1913 Library structure. And to our voices I add this from the N.C. Historical Society 1951 book, “Landmarks of New Canaan,” in which the Library chapter is by Stephen B. Hoyt, (illustrated by Edwin Eberman): “The architectural gem, designed by the late Alfred H. Taylor and built by John Mahon, of native granite every piece of which was thoughtfully selected for its particular spot in the structure, is our Parthenon. Walk east on Cherry Street some Winter afternoon when the late sun illuminates the north facade and see the art and craftsmanship revealed in the mosaic which frames the paladin window. This was not accident. Mahon struggled to select these stones. His men worked long days in laying them. Then came Taylor, and refused. Stones were removed and others selected. Profit went to the winds. It had to be beautiful.”

It had to be beautiful and it is.  It has to be preserved. It is a Landmark. It is our Parthenon.

Sincerely,

Preston Neal Jones

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Dear Editor:

I write to support efforts to preserve the original 1913 façade of the New Canaan Library.  This façade is an elegant landmark structure in the midst of our busy and modern downtown. The library has been expanded several times since but the original building lends history and character to the overall structure.

One of the front two rooms of the original library building originally housed the New Canaan Historical Society, and if memory serves me, there is still a mural overhead featuring an historical view of the town and the Society’s seal.

I am a 1965 graduate of New Canaan High School. My first paid library job was as a page in Summer 1965 in the New Canaan Library. I worked at the circulation desk, shelved books, processed new books and assisted patrons. Motivated in part by that summer job, I since earned a masters degree in library science at Case Western Reserve University and worked forty-one years in libraries, records centers, and archives in municipal and state government in Connecticut and New York State.

Having been involved in construction and renovation projects involving libraries and similar facilities, I believe it is possible to build around and expand the library without destroying the original 1913 façade.

I appeal to you to advocate to preserve this original portion of our distinguished town library.

With best wishes,

David W. Palmquist

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In 2014 when the New Canaan Planning and Zoning updated their Plan of Conservation and Development regulation, the Town of New Canaan decided to conduct a photo contest in which contestants were asked “to submit images that celebrate life in New Canaan and things that make our community special.”  Six images were selected for publication in the updated 2014 POCD publication.   Three were images of architecture:  The 1913 Library, The Glass House, and the Waveny Mansion.  

A strip montage that runs at the header of our Channel 79 includes a few iconic New Canaan structures:  The 1913 Library, The Glass House, and the Waveny Estate.  

A visitor’s guide to New Canaan shows a map of our village district on Main Street, starting with a drawing of the 1913 Library on corner of Main and Cherry Street and ending with drawings of churches on God’s Acre.  

Thank you, commissioners, for listening to New Canaan residents who have said, “that preserving and enhancing community character is important to them.”  Accordingly, your updated publication states: “the intent of the Plan is not to change the character of New Canaan but to preserve it.  Residents clearly want to preserve what they love and cherish about New Canaan.”  

I write to you to ask that you abide by your regulations.  Our town is gifted with history because we have preserved the historic character of our village district and significant architecture in it. The 1913 Library building is the most noteworthy building in the district.  It is an expression of artistry, labor and craft that exhibits signs of how the building was made of stone by hand.  Large granite boulders were brought to the site where masons chiseled pieces to work together much like the making of a mosaic. 

The 1913 building was a collaboration between the architect and skilled stonemasons working together on site.  Many stonemasons were from Italy who came to Fairfield County, Connecticut between 1880 to 1920. Talented architects sought these skilled masons. Two examples exhibiting their craft are the 1913 Library Building and The Pequot Library, erected in Southport between 1887-93.

World renown and Pritzker prizewinner architect, Renzo Piano, recently commented: “It is important to make labor and craft visible.  I think, unfortunately, that sense has been lost in architecture.  People make entire buildings that don’t show any trace of their construction.  Of course, today we don’t make buildings entirely by hand, but you should still be able to see traces of how the building is made, how it comes together, piece by piece.”  

The labor, skill, and craftsmanship of the 1913 building’s stone system could never be constructed today. 

Susan Leaming Pollish

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5 thoughts on “Letters To The Editor

  1. Bravo classmates NCHS 65 who grew up here living elsewhere to support the NCL 1913 structure, Pepper & Candance Creamer Sweet, Preston Jones, David Palmquist. We realize the importance of salvaging the 1913 building off of existing structure. Such a travesty that so many transitory residences don’t understand the significance of our voices.

    • If I understand your comment correctly, the authors of the letters supporting preservation of the 1913 building no longer live in New Canaan, and thus will not be users of the new library?

      • I’ve read every letter on the town website; clearly, the vast majority of us who hope to preserve the 1913 Library live here in New Canaan. On the flip side, since the list of pro-demolition new Library donors or pledgers has not been shared, can we be sure they’re all current New Canaan residents, too?

        • Excellent point Cam. When meeting with the NCL on behalf of Friends of Our 1913 Library, we asked for the names of new NC library donors and were told no.

  2. I understand the significance of your voices. Entering your first library as a child is something not to be forgotten. Having access to a world of books is how we learn about the world. 1913 houses a significant sense of place that can and should be curated, nurtured and positioned to thrive as an homage to New Canaan’s cultural, historical and architectural past. For those who don’t like the looks of it, it’s a time for tolerance of all voices and not a time to judge those who love what you don’t. I learned that in a library of my youth.

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