A major renovation project has been completed at one of the most historically significant and heavily used public buildings in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts.
The $4 million project at the Central Library on State Street included replacing the entire flat roof and gutter system and substituting the crumbling terracotta cornices and lion head ornaments with molded plaster. The front marble stairs were reconstructed and in the rear of the building a new access ramp was put in.
All the work has resulted in the building becoming more accessible and safe for library patrons and protecting its collections from any possible damage, according to Molly Fogarty, Director of the Springfield City Library.
"This library has been a center of learning, opportunity, and community engagement for the city of Springfield," said Fogarty.
The Central Library was built in 1912. It is one of roughly 1,700 libraries across the United States built with the help of donations from the industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The Springfield library was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
It had been showing its age. Water was leaking inside the building. The rear entrance stairs and ramp had been condemned. The front stairs wobbled. Netting had to be put up to prevent chunks of terracotta from falling to the ground.
The project took more than two years to complete – about a year longer than initially estimated -- because of the age of the building and the intricacy of some of the work, according to Peter Garvey, the city’s director of construction.
"Everything was custom made and had to fit into a classic building," said Garvey.
The library remained open during the construction.
"We were determined to stay open during the entire project so we had to move things around and there were times when it was disruptive ... so we saw some drops in visitors, but we are picking up," said Fogarty. The Central Library has 400,000 visitors annually.
Fogarty said the project also added a new amenity – an outdoor plaza that is shared with the Springfield Museums.
" We've talked about doing some outdoor concerts and story hours," said Fogarty. She said people can sit out on the plaza and use the library's wi-fi.
Aside from a $100,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a $75,000 donation from the museums, city funds paid for the work, according to Mayor Domenic Sarno.
"The $4 million was very very well spent," said Sarno.
This is not the last major renovation project needed at the Central Library. Officials say the windows need to be replaced and the heating system upgraded. The building is not air conditioned.