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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Main Library Project Update

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 08, 2018

It has been three weeks since I provided an update on the Main Library Project.

 

I feel an obligation to keep Jefferson County resident informed about the project, for this is a significant step in a community’s resources --- to renovate one of Ohio’s first Carnegie buildings to make it useful for years to come.

 

This is also noteworthy since it brings our Main Library into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the last Ohio public library to become accessible.

 

From a personal standpoint, I am delighted that the Main Library is finally being renovated and I only wish that it could have been accomplished earlier in my career so I could have enjoyed working in the facility longer.

 

But, the branch libraries needed more attention, so we worked at constructing and renovating the six branch libraries first.

 

The first phase of the Main Library Project has been completed as the 56 foundation pilings are installed and the huge crane that was part of the S. 4th Street skyline is gone.

 

The pilings go down about 45 feet into the gravel and sand that forms downtown Steubenville, and will carry the load of the 2-story addition to the library.

 

Work has begun on the foundation of the elevator shaft that will service the 4 floor levels of the new library complex; which will be the lower level, street level, 1st floor and 2nd floor.

 

The library complex will be accessed at the street level which will open onto Slack Street and the library parking lots.

 

Did we find anything in the soils behind the building?  No, as the soils were not virgin to the site since the 1902 building had stirred up the site and the 1948 garages and the 1963 annex were actually on the site.

 

The other work underway included the installation of new water and sewer services, and electrical, telephone, and fiber optic Internet access.

 

I did recover a glazed tile sewer pipe with decorations, and a brick likely from the 1840 Sarratt House that occupied the library site until 1899 when it was purchased and demolished.

 

On rainy days, the contractor moved indoors to work on the lower level (basement) of the existing library building.

 

Ceilings, lights, HVAC, and plumbing were being removed to be upgraded in the new plan and several things were revealed.

 

The installation of new water lines revealed the foundation of the Carnegie building, which consists of two stone courses below the basement floor, and two more courses of stone below that turned perpendicular to the walls to provide a larger base of the huge walls.

 

The foundation certainly showed its strength as machines worked in the back pounding away, and the lobby chandeliers never moved even slightly.

 

A little bit of the original colors of the Carnegie building was revealed on the lower level and it documented the description written in 1902 when the building opened that the walls were green and red with dark stained woodwork. 

 

That was confirmed in 1994 when a book was written about Alden & Harlow, the original architects, and the author told me that green and red would have been appropriate colors of that era.

 

In reality, the green was a rather light green, and the red appeared muted in its shade.

 

The children’s room of the Carnegie building had been moved into the former auditorium of the building in 1941, but construction in that area revealed that the back of the room had been renovated in 1922 according to the stamped date on plasterboard.

 

A decision has been made to remove the floor tile on the 1st floor to reveal the original marble, which was covered over during a 1952 renovation, 

 

That renovation attempted to “modernize” the Richardsonian-Romanesque Carnegie building, but today we want to see and experience the marble floors.

 

I hope you are as excited as I am to see the finished product, and brag to your friends around the area about our new library complex.