Candia Heritage Commission begins push to renovate town library

Union Leader Correspondent
November 13. 2012 8:29PM
If the funding can be secured, the Candia Heritage Commission hopes to reopen the town's old library in 2013 in observance of the Candia's 250th anniversary. (BRENDAN CLOGSTON/Union Leader Correspondent)
The plans are finished and a contractor is in place, but there is one hurdle remaining for the Candia Heritage Commission to overcome in its efforts to renovate and reopen the town's old library: money.

The Smyth Memorial Building renovation project will cost $150,000. Grants aside, much of that is going to have to come, one way or another, from the Town of Candia.

A funding request will be on the town's March warrant article. The specifics of the request will depend on the project's financial status at that time, but will likely either ask the town to fund the project fully, or to fund a significant portion of it and take a loan out on the remainder.

How the request will fare, given the heavy competition for funding on the upcoming warrant, is an uneasy question for the project's supporters.

"That is very definitely a concern," said Heritage Commission Chair Diane Philbrick. "It's probably a reason that we need to look very seriously at spreading this out over a period of time."

In the meantime, the commission has been considering how it might reduce the cost of the project. A New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program grant for $50,000 has been applied for, with the recipient being announced later this month. The use of volunteer labor and fundraising drives, such as the one which helped to build the town's new library, have also been discussed.

If all goes well, the Commissions hopes to open and dedicate the library in 2013, in observance of the 250th anniversary of Candia's incorporation.

If completed, the building would hold up to 49 people for meetings, events, demonstrations and recitals. Central to the project is the preservation of the structure's Colonial Revival style. The main room would remain largely unchanged, with the shelves being removed and the worn cork floor replaced with duplicate flooring. Other rooms would be reworked significantly to accommodate bathrooms, a kitchenette, and handicapped access.

"The point of this project, really, is to use the building," said commission member Carmelle Druchniak. "I mean, it's great to renovate it and preserve it, but it's not just to drive by and say 'Isn't it a great building and isn't it great that it's preserved?'" The Smyth Memorial Building, built in 1932 and named for its benefactor, state governor from 1865-1867 Frederick Smyth, was closed in 2002 when a new library was built. Refurbishing the building has been in the town's capital improvement plan since then, but only in the last two years has the project found momentum under the Heritage Commission.

In 2007, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the New Hampshire Register of State Historic Places. The Heritage Commission also applied for a "Seven to Save" designation under New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, but lost the bid in October.

Philbrick noted that those projects which did win included a New Hampshire-Vermont bridge and a pre-revolutionary war structure, however, were much bigger in scale and in far more troubling condition.

"I talked with [the project's architectural consultant] Rick Monahan at [the "Seven to Save"] meeting, and I said 'I'm really disappointed,'" said Philbrick. "He said 'Well, Diane, your project is at the point these other projects wish they were.'"


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