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Cohoes receives state funding to reopen library

A sign outside the Cohoes Public Library
Lucas Willard
A sign outside the Cohoes Public Library

Leaders in Cohoes say a half-million-dollar state grant will fund efforts to reopen the Albany County city’s historic library.

Built in 1895, the Cohoes Public Library was closed in July of last year after the historic structure’s bluestone façade began crumbling.

Standing outside the fenced-off former church on Wednesday, officials announced a half-million dollars in state funding would go toward repairing the building’s exterior and making necessary repairs to the interior as well.

Here’s Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler.

“The $500,000 will go beyond just the façade. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, I mean, structurally, just to keep the elements out. But there’s a long list of things that need to be done and this half-million dollars go a long way towards that end.”

The funding was secured by State Senator Neil Breslin, a fellow Democrat who was at Wednesday’s announcement.

“It’s a gem for Cohoes. And more importantly, that’s the exterior, and the inside’s just as beautiful. But what it means for the children and people of Cohoes, they’re able now to come back to a library – a library that’s not like it was 50 years ago,” said Breslin.

Barbara Hildreth is president of the library board.

“Our library is the center of our community. It’s a gathering place. There’s tutoring, there’s club meetings, there’s places for people just to come in and relax. It is the center and we are ever so grateful for the grant so we can get going and return here,” said Hildreth.

Since last summer the library has been operating at the Cohoes Senior Center.

There’s no timeline for the completion of the restoration work right now, but Mayor Keeler says patrons will be excited to return.

“Folks, as they go in there, they’re constantly asking, ‘When is the main library gonna reopen?’ So they’re enthusiastic and they’ll be quite pleased to see them back in the building.”

A combined city effort to revitalize the library began in 2020, along with City Hall and the Cohoes Music Hall. An engineering review at the time found multiple issues that needed to be addressed. It wasn’t until weather-degraded mortar caused stones to fall off the building’s exterior that the library was forced to close.

The last time a major renovation was completed was nearly 40 years ago.

The building also houses a private medical practice, the Parsons Child and Family Center, and Mary’s Corner – which serves families with young children. Part of the building was reopened in May after emergency repairs were funded by the state and city of Cohoes.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.