In the mid-1990s, Mary Ellen Armentrout took it upon herself to compile a catalog of Ohio’s 115 Carnegie libraries. At the time, she was the interlibrary-loan librarian at Otterbein College, whose Carnegie library now houses the admissions office, and she took The Chronicle on a memorable daylong tour of libraries large and small.
Since publishing her book, Carnegie Libraries of Ohio, she has kept up with the fates of what she calls “my libraries,” and she filed this report on the recent renovation of the Carnegie building at Cedarville University, which was one of the stops on that long-ago tour. The photos are hers too.
The little library in Cedarville, Ohio, that Andrew Carnegie financed in 1908 has been restored to its original beauty thanks to the foresight of Cedarville University administrators. Once a library open to both the college and the town, it later became the college’s property and alternately housed classrooms and campus offices. Over the years the interior of the building had been divided into several cramped spaces. Structural and moisture problems so plagued the building that it came close to being condemned.
Instead, Cedarville administrators embarked on $1-million renovation to make the building the home for fine arts at the university. The project involved gutting the building and restoring its structural integrity.
A new concrete floor and drainage system was installed, along with a new handicapped-accessible rear entrance. The original white-oak woodwork was stripped and sealed. Original window transoms were restored. Walls were replastered, and ceilings were returned to their original 18-foot height.
The most dramatic change is a new central staircase in which stair treads from another building were reused. Carpeting throughout the building is composed of recycled fiberglass and plastic squares that can easily be replaced. Period lighting completes the interior. Natural light makes it a perfect space for the fine-arts classes, and three floors of usable space also accommodate faculty offices.
On the exterior new front steps and a lower entrance have been installed. The iron-grillwork hand railings replicate the pattern on the window transoms, which is also used on the interior staircase railings. The original wooden columns at the front entrance have been replicated in low-maintenance eco-friendly materials. New landscaping and exterior lighting complete the restoration.
Lora E. Sebald, principal of Sebald Architects, was the designer for the project. She said she “wanted to maintain the significant historical integrity of the building.” That she did, along with creating a modern and totally functional space. Andrew Carnegie would be proud.