WHERE HAVE I BEEN?
It has been some time since I have posted. I had several posts prepared and just about ready to go when my attention was diverted to what I perceived as an emergency here in Gloucester.
The library was awarded the grant but then was unable to get the override from the City that was needed to proceed so the plans were shelved.
Ten years passed until this year when the library was once again eligible to apply for a 40% grant. The opportunity only comes around every ten years. An architectural firm looked over the job and advised the library board and building committee to bypass the 1764 house, physically cutting it off. Then they then advised that it was best to demolish the 1913 addition and to also to demolish the handsome 1976, forty year old main section designed by Donald Monell and start all over again.
|The Cape Ann Museum attached to the Elias Davis house with a contemporary|
addition. The museum and the library face each other and were designed to
work well together as they flank the centerpiece of the Civic Center, Gloucester
City Hall CAM Photo
I recoiled at the threat to the library, rolled up my sleeves and jumped in to do what I could to save the library and protect the house. My first step after a scathing letter to the editor was to write a history of the old house which was published in a local blog called Enduring Gloucester. (enduringgloucester.com) This was followed by a history of the entire block in which the library is located.
Rather than reconstruct these two stories I am going to give you the links and urge you to read both pieces. The story of the house called the Saunders house will not disappoint you. It's history is right up there with the most interesting and most read stories I have previously published.
Then please read the follow-up.
I am happy to report there have been successes. After many meetings, publishing later discoveries on Facebook and joining a group of like minds there has been a positive outcome. At this point demolition is off the table. Architects are working on an alternate design that involves retrofitting the present library with the possibility of adding onto the back for more space.
The old house has been decommissioned for library use because of lead paint and shaky handicapped accessibility. The idea now is to form a non-profit for the old house. The Historical Commssion has pledged to help find preservation or restoration money to appropriately restore the most remarkable rooms in the high styled Georgian mansion. The goal is to be able to eventually rejoin the Saunders house when it is free of lead and fully handicapped accessible.
Our fingers and toes are crossed for a favorable outcome. There is every reason to believe that in the end Gloucester will have a beautiful library with a fabulous antique house combined with a state of the art 21st century library with all the bells and whistles and all within the shell of the 1976 Monell section which is so much loved by the community.
And now I can step back and complete the new stories that were about ready to go when I was so distracted that I could only think of one thing: saving the library!
Thanks for reading and know that with valid arguments and by speaking out, it IS possible to make a difference. You can fight City Hall! (or the library)
Last evening I spoke to the contractor who had done work on the Saunders house in the past and he told me something interesting that he had discovered.
When Capt. Beach built the observatory in 1802 the roofing material that had leaked so badly was comprised of white canvas covered with a mixture of tar and sea shells instead of tar and gravel. Perhaps it's no wonder that it leaked but considering this is a seaport I found that information interesting.
The contractor had discovered this evidence while working on the gutters.