Vote Saves Modern Library in Connecticut
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | July 29, 2008
This summer, red signs and green signs in the front lawns of Suffield, Conn., have revealed a town divided over plans to build a new library in place of a modern one built in its historic district in 1972.
"Some people absolutely love it; some people absolutely hate it. Almost no one has no opinion of it," says Bill Moncrief, chairman of the National Register-listed Suffield Historic District.
The signs are gone now. The people have spoken. In a July 22 referendum, residents voted 2,556 to 1,525 against spending $13.6 million on a new library to take the place of the Kent Memorial Library, designed by Warren Platner.
"The vote was fabulous news," says Brad Schide, circuit rider at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. Even if the referendum had passed, the local historic district "always had the trump vote anyway," he says, and could protect the library.
Despite the vote, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation intends to keep the Kent Library on its list of most endangered historic structures. Many residents may have simply voted against spending millions on a new library, not necessarily protecting the old, overcrowded one, whose roof leaks.
Moncrief's group is seeking grants to hire a consultant to determine the best library for Suffield. "The town has to step back and reevaluate and decide what we're going to do," he says, noting that its options may include choosing another site or moving the Kent Library.
A renovation and addition to the old library would cost almost half as much as a new library, according to an estimate by Hartford-based Crosskey Architects, whose principal is a board member of the Connecticut Trust.
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