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Historic Deerfield library to undergo significant renovations

Union Leader Correspondent

May 04. 2014 10:21PM
The Philbrick-James Library is set for significant exterior renovations this year. (Ryan O'Connor Photo)

DEERFIELD — Thirty-three years ago, when Evelyn DeCota began as director of the Philbrick-James Library, her annual book budget was $600 and the library, located in the Soldiers Memorial building, was open for four hours each Saturday.

“When I took over here in 1981, the library was contained in one room, and I said, ‘the library needs to move and expand,’” said DeCota, “and so I just kept pushing out, and now we occupy all four rooms in the building.”

Today, the library’s collection has more than doubled to over 20,000 books, its total annual budget is near $100,000 and its open 37 hours a week spread out over six days.

Soon, the library will undergo significant exterior renovations, including work to the building’s cast stone and masonry veneer; repointing of the chimney; restoration of the foundation and window sills and repair to the concrete retaining walls.

Improvements to the aging building are nothing new to DeCota.

“My tenure here has involved doing projects continuously,” she said “We’ve had the slate roof repaired, we had the front steps rebuilt last fall, we’ve had the interior floors refinished and we had new carpeting put in downstairs last year, so it’s an ongoing process.

“It’s just one of those things I learned early on that I wasn’t going to get the entire building fixed in a year,” she added.

While the money to repair the chimney is being funded by the town, since it’s a critical issue, the rest of the project is financed through the library’s building fund.

The repairs, said DeCota, come at a near-perfect time.

“We’re having our hundredth anniversary this year of the Soldiers Memorial, which is where the library is housed,” she said. “It was dedicated, July 28 of 1914, and we’re going to have a 100th-year celebration at Old Home Day in August.”

Because the building is an integral part of the Deerfield Center Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, town officials are taking extra care in planning the project, and, DeCota said a contractor with experience in historical restoration work is preferred.

All sealed bids for the project are due by 5 p.m. today.

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