Plumb projects: Historic restoration, modern upgrades

The “Red Lion Window” was recently restored and installed in the section of the Plumb Memorial Library built in 1895.

The “Red Lion Window” was recently restored and installed in the historic section of Plumb Memorial Library. 

Changes are underway at Plumb Memorial Library.

Projects to restore the 1895-building’s historic beauty and others focused on creating modern spaces and better access at the Wooster Street library are in motion. It’s part of an ongoing and collaborative effort of The Library Board of Directors, Friends of the Shelton Library System and the City of Shelton.

One of the most recent and noticeable changes is the gutting and renovation of Plumb’s main Meeting Room — located on the lower level.

The roughly $80,000 renovation is being funded through The Library Board and will include a new floor and ceiling, cabinetry, screen, television and outlets along the wall.

“The room is used quite often by the community and the library,” Library Director Joan Stokes said. “These renovations open up a world of possibilities.”

Stokes and Library Board members Jim Geissler and Aleta Miner sat down with The Herald recently to discuss some of the projects.

The renovation of the meeting room will take approximately three months. Until then, programming is being moved to Plumb’s historic Reading Room and Huntington Branch Library.

“This really is Phase 1 of a decade-long project,” Miner said. “By the time we’re finished the whole library will be renovated and restored. The public just needs to have have patience in meantime.”

The Meeting Room renovation means the Friends of the Library Book Sale will be postponed until spring and no book donations will be accepted as there is nowhere to store those donations.

When the Meeting Room is reopened there will be no public fee to rent it out, according to Geissler. The library previously charged a nominal fee.

The Board of Aldermen also recently approved funding to improve Plumb’s handicap accessibility by installing an elevator, according to Miner. A timeline for the elevator project is in the works.

Historic beauty

A few years ago, the Library Board set to working to restore dismantled and damaged Tiffany glass windows in the basement. The windows were original to the original 1895 building.

With expert help of Michael Skrtic of The Glass Source of Seymour, and some of the board’s own sweat equity, the windows are restored and back in the historic section of the library.

“We all did some cleaning and scraping,” Geissler said. “We have some sweat equity in those windows.”

Two of the large and elaborate windows, one of which depicts the Roman Goddess of Wisdom Minerva, adorn the Reading Room in backlit boxed frames, paid for by the Friends of the Shelton Libraries. Restoring the two windows cost the Library Board about $35,000.

A third window, called the Red Lion Window, was recently restored and placed back in a window frame in a study room where archival materials are kept. The board had initially been concerned about putting the window in a frame, for fear of vandals. The Glass Source has installed a protective piece to the outside of the window, to protect it from damage.

“It belongs in the window frame,” Geissler said. “When you see that natural light come through it, it just makes it.”

The Red Lion restoration cost the Library Board $17,000, but it was money well-spent, according to Miner and Geissler. Library patrons often stop to admire the “new” addition.

“This building is on the National Register of Historic Places,” Miner said of the original library building. “We can’t change it but we can restore it.”

Momentum

In addition to renovation projects underway and others in the pipeline, Plumb staff are seeing growth and new ways residents are using services, according to Stokes. The Children’s and Teen departments saw record participation in summer reading programs. Books are still the backbone, according to Stokes, but access to computers and community programs are also a large draw for residents.  

“We’re providing a service that may be used in a different way but more necessary than ever, Stokes said.

Plumb has also announced it will reopen on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., starting this weekend.

Miner and Geissler credited Stokes and the staff for building strong connections in the community. They see the growth continuing going forward.

“It’s really exciting and we would like to continue the momentum,” Miner said.

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