What happened to the historic Carnegie part of the building?
Well, by an addition the Athol Public Library has been expanded from the original 5,894sf to a total of about 20,068sf on two floors. So, today’s building comprises an old historic Carnegie section in the front and the contemporary addition. The addition is designed in a way that it doesn’t replicate anything from the Carnegie part, but resonates with everything in it. The architecture of the historic section is amazing, but when you enter it from the back side, which is a new, fairly modern space, your eye suddenly catches the fact that the ceiling went up a great deal, that it’s dressed up with sweet school lights, and beautiful arched windows set a very special atmosphere.
But the most amazing about the historic section is the flooring. It represents what would have been there at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s antique yellow pine, also known as hard pine. Amazingly, this floor helped the Athol Public Library meet one of the most challenging LEED requirements – the FSC wood credit. The latter requires all wood used in projects to be sourced from sustainable forests, and the latter fact must be confirmed by documentary evidence. The authors of the library went further, by re-using old vintage timber from an industrial building for making the “new” flooring!
The thing is that Athol is historically a mill town. With the Millers River running through its heart, it grew up as an agrarian community with mills as the main industry. And it still goes on like this: the mills are still functioning and Athol continues to be a traditional New England Mill Town in the 21st century. By the way, the centuries-old Starrett Company that has owned the mills, was the one that donated the land and some funding for the original building of the Carnegie Library in 1918 and also donated the land for the modern addition three generations later. So now, salvaged from an old mill building, the large timbers were resawn by the local company into the flooring. And on looking closer you can still see the old holes from fasteners that held the timbers together. This is very meaningful for the local community as it symbolizes both their respect for the history and commitment to sustainability.
What was the local contribution to the project?
One more interesting local contribution that has been made is a service desk. In any library interior it’s an important place where people meet in the context of a library, and staff meets the community. In the Athol Library the service desk was customs-crafted by John, a phenomenal local woodworker.
Besides, the experts of Tappe Architects paid special attention to the entrance area. Immediately on entering the library, visitors see a staircase leading to the main library hall. The wall behind it is finished with beautiful cherry wood and a customs-crafted wooden tree – these elegant details were deliberately arranged by the entrance to welcome you when you come in. These things were also made with a local resource engaged, and this is very important for everybody here. It’s uniquely meaningful for the community.