Good news on ceiling problem
Library foundation deemed OK; Phase 1 work to start this spring
Andrew Carnegie's building is not falling down.
Old Colorado City Branch Library officials received the good news in January from area construction contractor G.E. Johnson.
The information clears the way for Phase 1 of the 101-year-old building's $1.7 million preservation project to proceed as originally planned, according to Branch Manager Julianne Rist. However, there is a bit of a time crunch now, because there is an August expiration date for the $149,000 Colorado Historical Society grant, which is being matched by private sources to cover Phase 1's $450,000 cost.
The Phase 1 upgrades - involving exterior windows, doors and stairs - had to be delayed last August when plaster started falling off the ceiling. This prompted a concern that foundation repairs - which had kicked off the preservation project in 2003 - were causing the ceiling issues. G.E. Johnson's determination that the building is structurally sound was based on data from a September-to-November monitoring program of the building, Rist said.
As a result, the Phase 1 work will now start “as soon as weather permits, probably in March,” Rist said. Warmer weather is needed chiefly because of the brickwork that is required around failing windows. The worst case is the southwest window, which has a noticeable crack nearby, she said.
All 31 of the library windows are original, and, as a result, they will be taken out, restored, repaired and reinstalled, she said. The doors, which are not historic, will be replaced. There are nine in all, including the two front doors and four emergency doors, she said. The stairs to be upgraded are those leading up to the main entrance in front and to an emergency exit on the east side.
Efforts will be made to minimize disruption to library patrons. “G.E. Johnson figures to come in early in the morning or late at night to do the noisy work like removing windows, so as not to disrupt library functions,” Rist said, then added, “though there are times when I'm sure that will happen.”
The library will remain open throughout Phase 1, she said.
The ideal scenario, Rist said, would be not only to complete Phase 1 by the August deadline, but to have funding for Phase 2 in hand so that the contractor could just keep going without having to stop and come back later.
No money has been gathered yet for Phase 2, but Rist said the library is working on three promising grants. Private donations continue to be sought, and money is also being raised through sales of souvenirs and prints of Westside artist Jack Ekstrom's painting of the building.
The Pikes Peak Library District has not allocated funding for the preservation project. Rist said this is because district officials could not justify spending money on a library without increasing its size. “They're looking at areas that are underserved or have no service,” she said.
Phase 2 is to focus on the building's interior, including a reworking of the main and basement floors, a new heating/cooling system and ceiling repairs. The ceiling plaster is currently being held in place by dozens of boards attached along the ceiling.
A later Phase 3 is to spruce up the landscaping and parking lot.
The building was erected in 1904 with a $10,000 grant from wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. According to research in the current issue of the Old Colorado City Historical Society's Westword newsletter, “There were 37 Carnegie libraries built in Colorado. Today, there are 17 still functioning as libraries; five are museums; several are in use as businesses and community centers. Sadly, eight have been razed and several closed.”
Westside Pioneer article