Letters to the Editor


NewCanaanite.com recently received the following letter(s) to the editor. Please send letters to editor@newcanaanite.com for publication here.


Dear Editor, 

Last week in the mail I received the booklet “New Canaan, New Library, New Chapter,”

as did many other residents (copies available in the Library.)  As a donor to the Annual Fund the Library was encouraging me to “extend my support…. to include a gift to the Campaign for the NEW New Canaan Library.” This is a $40million project.  The Town has committed $10million of our tax money to support this worthy cause. The Library has raised $25million in donations and pledges, but still needs to raise $5million more. 

But in addition to raising those funds to complete the building project, the Library will need to raise an additional large amount of money for their plan to fulfill a Planning & Zoning requirement to “preserve” the original 1913 building. Instead of leaving the small original Library building where it is, The Library has proposed to “preserve” the front (67’x22’) of the building by moving it off its foundation, moving it 80 feet across the lawn, building a new foundation on the western edge of the property against the Gulf Gas Station fence and reconstructing a new western wall where the rear portion of the original 1913 structure will have been demolished.  These considerable costs could all be saved by leaving the existing original library in place. Their plan would only increase the amount of green space by a tiny 20’ x 59’ — the size of the rear portion to be demolished.

It is difficult to understand why the library would consider spending so much money that they have yet to raise on this unusual attempt at “preservation” requiring the building of a new foundation, this surgical demolition, the moving and the restructuring of part of the 1913 building when they still need to raise $5 million to complete their building.

The Library has planned a town green for the area behind the new 40,000 square foot building. The large 1979 addition, the 1952 addition, the 1932 addition and part of the original 1913 building will all be demolished for this green space. The area will be about an acre in size and is planned to be a space for learning and cultural programming and for families and individuals to enjoy the in-town green space– interesting ideas.  But the plans presented in this booklet, seem to show a grove of trees where the original 1913 building is—thus not usable lawn space.  In fact, the original 1913 building occupies only 2,654 square feet of the approximately 43,560 square feet of the proposed Town Green, less than 1/20th of the space. 

Instead of demolishing the beautiful old retaining walls along Main Street and Cherry Street to build new lower walls, those could be kept, saving an additional huge amount of money, while keeping the historic beauty and charm of our New England village.  Juxtaposing the beautiful new mid-century modern inspired building with the charming much smaller original structure and its setting would be a wonderful example of combining the old with the new as recommended in the Planning and Zoning’s Plan of Conservation Development! “The intent of this 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.”

The New Canaan Preservation Alliance has proposed leaving the original 1913 structure in place and turning the building into a useful performing arts stage/cultural center, reception/meeting area and gallery. The western rear wall, which will have been destroyed by the demolition of the 1952 Children’s Room, would be replaced with an accordion glass wall that could be opened to the library lawn for performances. Please visit the New Canaan Preservation Alliance website to view videos of this amazing proposed transformation.

The New Canaan Preservation Alliance has offered to raise funds for completing this project as a gift to the New Canaan Library which owns the original building. This would be another savings for the New Canaan Library’s fund raising. Sadly, the Library’s costly plan of  “preservation” results in a basically unusable structure, used only perhaps for storage— more of an architectural folly. This is especially sad, because the gracious Salant Reading Room with its historic painted wall murals will be lost forever. 

For over one hundred years that 1913 building has provided fabulous opportunities for the children and adults of New Canaan.  The new building will continue that tradition, developing new state of the art activities for children and adults; but, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. The original 1913 building is still in excellent condition and used daily. The old and the new can live in harmony with one another as was demonstrated by the new Town Hall addition attached to the historic edifice. The old and the new must live in harmony if we are to maintain the heritage of our historic town as we move into the future!

As a long time donor to the Library, it bothers me that the Library has not respected the historic nature of the original 1913 structure by assuring it remains in situ transformed into a useful and complementary space as proposed by the New Canaan Preservation Alliance.  If you share my concern, reach out to the Trustees of the Library, Planning and Zoning, the Historic Commission and town officials and stress the need to preserve all of the 1913 Library in its present location. I would urge those who have made donations and pledges to let the Library Board know that you would be in favor of saving money and retaining the original landmark building! My donation to the Library will take into consideration the library’s lack of concern about saving this historic structure, about which I care deeply, and the spending of donors’ gifts that could be for the new library on their proposed “preservation” instead. If you are planning a donation, I hope you will also consider these concerns.

Respectfully submitted, 

Mary-Ellen McDonald

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