Cathy Marciariello, program director at the library, has her fingers
crossed that the February date for reopening can be met. The
environmental committee of the Atlanta Public Library board decided
that the project would take less time if all the parts of the
renovation were accomplished at one time. To that end, all of the
books and shelves in the library are being boxed up and moved to
another location. The contractors will then move in en masse and get
The word restoration is the operable term for this project. The
library is being stripped of as much material as possible that has
been added over the years since it opened in 1908. Once everything
is done, the library will look much as it did when its doors were
Marciariello pointed out that the library restoration would not
have been possible without the increase in the library district tax
that was approved by voters last year. Once the money was available,
the environmental committee, chaired by Steve Dreyer, commenced
planning for the project.
The first part of the restoration was repair of the tile roof to
stop the leaks that were damaging the interior and making the
Next, the wood floors, stairs, doors and railings are being
stripped and returned to their original luster. Orwig Renovation &
Design of Bloomington has been hired to carry out the refinishing of
the maple, pine and oak that was used in the original building.
Justin Orwig, owner of the company, said that he specializes in
returning historic wooden structures to their original look.
One of the first tasks for the crew was removing the carpeting
from the library. In many cases it had been glued down. Orwig shook
his head when describing the task. "That was a much bigger job than
we anticipated," he said. "The glue removal was really difficult."
Sanding the stairs, front door and floors came next. Orwig uses a
special line of sanders from Germany and Sweden that vacuum the dust
as the sander is in use, removing 95 percent of the wood dust. He
explained that this is a requirement in Europe and England. No
sanding or tuck-pointing can be done there without real-time
vacuuming of dust. It makes cleanup much easier and creates a safer
work environment for the contractor and library employees who have
been emptying the building.
Last, special finishing oil is applied to the wood. This will
protect the wood, yet allow the natural grain to be visible. The
outside of the front door will also be finished with the oil, which
has additives to protect the wood from weathering.
Ceiling tile is being removed to expose the original look of each
room. The wall colors and trim match the original colors. Old
fluorescent tubes have been removed and chandeliers with a period
look are being installed. The three ceiling fans are in working
condition, so the blades were stripped of paint to return them to
the original bare metal.
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The librarian's desk is going to be enlarged from a
semicircular shape to a full circle, providing more workspace.
One item that Marciariello is especially proud of is the
restoration of the fireplace in what will become the adult reading
room. The fireplace, originally wood-burning, will be switched to
gas log, and the room will have couches for a relaxed atmosphere. A
Bunn-O-Matic may even be added to complete the welcoming environment
with a cup of coffee.
The entire entrance foyer will be tiled with material that
duplicates the floor area in front of the librarian's desk, an area
that is original to the building. At a store in Bloomington, the
contractor was able to find a match to the 100-year-old tile.
The bookshelves that are original to the building are being
stripped and the original wood exposed. Local Atlanta contractor
John Ford is building more bookshelves to match the originals.
The final part of the project is the renovation of the basement
into the children's library for use by students in kindergarten
through fifth grade.
"The children's library space would not have been possible
without a grant from the Wood's Foundation," Marciariello said.
While the library building is closed, not all of the library
programs are being put on hold. The book groups will continue to
meet across the street in the Atlanta Museum. The "Behind the
Scenes" programs will also continue at the Atlanta Country Club.
Once the restoration is complete, the library is going to be a
beautiful Atlanta showcase with modern library services, an
essential part of a thriving community.
The octagonal building is one of only two that were built. Unlike
Decatur and Springfield, cities that demolished historic Carnegie
libraries, Atlanta has the foresight to care for a unique part of
the town's history.
An open house will be scheduled to celebrate the completion of
[By CURT FOX]