I am writing to offer some additional background information, along with thoughts and concerns, to the ongoing conversation about moving the Rutland library from Court Street to the CSJ campus. Before retirement, I was a principal with NBF Architects. Our firm was involved in many projects from the 1980s until recently at the Court Street building and were architects for the conversion of the gym at CSJ to the college library.
In both cases, the original intended use of the building was not as a library. The Court Street structure was built as a post office and a courthouse in 1858 and converted to a library in the 1930s. It was designed to be a fireproof building using wrought iron beams and brick masonry and has proven to be a very solidly built structure. The library at CSJ was originally a gymnasium constructed as a wing on the Administration Building. The Administration Building itself was originally a one-story structure with a large wooden second story and roof added later. Following construction of the present gymnasium building, NBF architect John Berryhill designed a mezzanine for the old gym which allowed its use as the college library.
In both cases (staying at Court Street or moving to the CSJ campus), there are pluses and minuses. In the Court Street building, the city has a solid structure that will last for a very long time but one that will always be-a challenge to librarians and library staff. Its solid construction is difficult to alter for modern HVAC and wiring requirements and it has a third floor of dubious usefulness because of building code issues. At the CSJ campus, you have a modern functioning library with more than adequate parking, though in a building not really built for the ages and without the grand spaces and architectural presence of the Court Street building.
As the city, library trustees and staff know, buildings, no matter how well-built, require ongoing maintenance and upgrades. The Court Street building, owned by the city, has benefited from significant bond monies that have supplemented city maintenance dollars. Since I’m not sure, from reading the Herald coverage, who the new owner of the library at CSJ will be (city or library trustees?), I wonder where the money will come from for ongoing maintenance, upkeep and upgrades. Over the years, this will add up to a considerable amount.
My work at the Court Street building over the years has made me, frankly, biased; I hope the library will stay where it is. It is one of the most distinguished buildings in Rutland — in the same company as St. Peter, IHM and Christ the King churches. These are all buildings Rutlanders should be extremely proud of now that we don’t seem to be able to afford to build as grandly and, in fact, struggle simply with the cost to maintain them.
I would hope Rutlanders might look at the Court Street library the same way Vermonters look at the State House in Montpelier (both from the same era and in part, the product of the same architect, Ammi Young) — as a building with some problems accommodating a 21st-century function but one to be treasured nonetheless.
Alvin Figiel lives in Rutland City.