Andrew Carnegie is well known as a generous philanthropist, but his endeavors in Maine are not often talked about. Andrew Carnegie believed that men of fortune should set an example and he wrote, “In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves.” Over the course of 23 years, he gave over $39 million to small communities over the United States to build public libraries. In Maine alone, Carnegie funded the building of over 20 libraries, including the Lewiston Public Library which was already under construction. He bestowed upon them a $60,000 dollar grant from the Carnegie Corporation on January 15th, 1901 to ensure its completion.
In keeping with his belief that his charitable contributions should go to those that helped themselves, the money for the libraries came with some straight forward stipulations. The libraries would be free to patrons. The city or town not only had to own the land, but it had to be a parcel that would ensure expansion could be made to the facility if and when it was needed. Carnegie also required that a support fund be established by the towns to insure proper maintenance of the library.
George M. Coombs designed the Lewiston Public Library. Coombs was a noted Maine architect with numerous buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. He was born in Brunswick and was the son of a shipbuilder. Coombs moved to the Lewiston area at the young age of 17 to work in the construction boom in the mill district, which is where he learned his trade. He became an independent architect and his company is still in existence.
The majority of the granite used in construction of the Lewiston Library came from Jay, Maine. According to the North Jay White Granite Park literature, 318 men working for the Maine and New Hampshire Granite Company made an average of one million paving blocks per year with a weekly payroll of only $9,000. This fascinating picture is just some of the cast of characters that produced the blocks now scattered across the globe.
Worth checking out at the Lewiston Public Library is the Marsden Hartley Cultural Center named after the Lewiston native who went on to become a world renowned 20th century artist. After traveling and painting all over the world, Hartley returned to Maine in 1916 and continued to paint until his death in 1943. His ashes were scattered on the Androscoggin River.
As dictated by the Carnegie Corporation, the Lewiston Public Library has undergone two major renovations since opening so many years ago. One occurred in 1996 and the other in 2003. Recently Hascall & Hall was part of an exterior facelift on this gorgeous granite structure.
The work we performed for the library was a very straight forward exterior masonry rehabilitation of the granite stone walls. This type of project consists of cleaning and re-pointing the exterior masonry stone façade, re-caulking of windows and doors as needed, painting exterior ornamental wood, rehabilitation of the entry steps as needed and other incidental work required to satisfactorily complete the project as outlined in the plans and specifications provided by the City of Lewiston.
In this case, we were also asked to furnish and install a method for safe and friendly “pigeon control”. Although one of nature’s creatures, they can wreak havoc on structures. We also caulked and painted the green windows of the North side of the building, provided some additional cleaning of the granite stone walls.
As with most all City governed work, there was a mandatory pre-bid meeting in May of 2013. Hascall & Hall was awarded the project on June 21st, 2013. Our crews were mobilized on July 22nd, 2013 and completed the project on August 24th, 2013, on time and within budget.
Even in this day and age of technology, technology, technology, public libraries continue to play a vital role in cataloging the world’s history and culture. Their climate controlled archives house delicate and informative pieces of our history, ancestry and photographic chronologies of the amazing transformation our world has undergone. Not to be forgotten, they are also free sources of opportunities for anyone to learn through books and printed media as well as a whole host of multimedia.
According to ala.org, 91% of public libraries provide free wi-fi. They also offer software and other resources that can assist the millions of unemployed Americans create resumes and employment materials and staff members assist patrons in completing on-line applications. For more interesting and thought provoking information regarding public libraries, please go to the following link: http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet06
A study done by the Indiana State Library found that libraries add economic value to communities even after the financial cost of running the facilities are taken into consideration. Even given this fact, public libraries are in trouble. If you have never given them a thought or been a supporter, it is never too late to change. It is an honor to have even a small part in ensuring that these facilities remain available, safe and beautiful.