Library renews public affection at reopening
Chalk on sidewalk: ‘We missed our library’
When the Old Colorado City Branch Library had its “soft”opening Oct. 23 (ending a six-month closure for major interior work), staffers found a couple of multi-
colored chalkmark messages on the sidewalk in front of the main steps. They read: “We missed our library” and “I love the library.”
It hadn't rained in recent weeks, so the chalk - though faded - was still readable at the branch's formal “grand reopening” ceremony Nov. 17.
“You can see the kids want us to reopen,” chuckled Calvin Otto of the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) Board of Trustees during his comments to the crowd at the top of the steps before helping cut the ribbon for the restored Carnegie facility.
There followed about seven hours of library activities, including historical impersonators, a Buffalo Soldiers presentation, a Manitou Art Theater show, information about the library and its history and a table of refreshments. Asked how many people came, Branch Manager Julianne Rist did not have exact numbers, but could compare the door count for the day (850) with a typical Saturday count from a year ago (400 to 500). And when 60 people squeezed in for the Art Theater performance in the refurbished downstairs community room, “we discovered our maximum capacity for the room,” Rist said.
The work had simultaneously upgraded the 103-year-old structure's internal systems to modern standards and replicated the historical layout of the Old Colorado City Branch's interior. Paula Miller, the PPLD executive director, alluded to this dual effort in her ribbon-cutting comments. “This truly retains the ambience of that era,” she said, then added, looking to the future, “May this library continue to serve many Old Colorado City generations to come.”
The library had originally been built with a $10,000 donation by wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The recent interior work cost over $800,000 - the major portion of a $1.2 million, multi-phase effort that has mostly been funded with private donations and grants. (The amount had been estimated early on at $1.4 million, but Phase 1 came in about $200,000 under budget.) The third and final phase, exterior landscaping, is anticipated in 2008, Rist said.
Another Nov. 17 speaker was City Council member Jerry Heimlicher, whose District 3 takes in two restored Carnegie libraries (the other is part of the Penrose Library downtown). He praised the many people who “wouldn't give up” in making the Old Colorado City upgrades happen. Referring to the facility's new wireless capability, he drew a laugh when he said, “If Mr. Carnegie wants to communicate with us, he can do so.”
A special visitor was Bettyann Henderson, who had lived next door to the library for 28 years (she'd called her house “Bookend Cottage”) and had been a volunteer before moving to Oregon about two years ago. Flying to Ohio on business and knowing about the reopening, she made a snap decision during what would have been a three-hour Denver layover to spend three days in Colorado Springs and take in the event. “It was a sentimental choice,” she said. Though she's happy in Oregon, she described the Springs as “home. I really wanted to see my friends.”
Another visitor at the opening was Dee Breitenfeld, who volunteers with the Ute Pass Historical Society. “I'm so impressed and thrilled when something historic is restored,” she said.
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