Preserving the Stewart Library Building

The Selectmen of Corinna set up the Building Preservation Group committee to provide leadership in preserving the Stewart Library Building. I am the chair of that committee. This post does not represent the committee, or the Selectmen, or the Town. This is only my own opinion.

SLB Hallway The Stewart Library Building (many of us call it the “Town Hall”) has been at the center of public life in Corinna for over one hundred years. We have memories of plays, dances, graduations, cheerleading, and playing basketball upstairs. For many of us, the hallway, with those pictures of Corinna residents from the 1800′s, and the library itself are important to our lives.

The 116 year old building needs maintenance, restoration, and upgrades. The most urgent thing is the brick work of the clock tower needs to be repaired. At the town meeting the people of Corinna voted to spend the money to fix the tower.4pdf tower

There are a number of other things needed to restore, maintain and upgrade the building, including installing an elevator. It will take a lot of money but, because the building is so unique and on the National Registry of Historic Places, most of the money can come from grants and donations that will not cost the town. The committee has applied for some grants and is working on more.

I think there are three things we must do to win grants and get donations that will pay for most of the work needed.

1. The building must stay on the National Registry of Historic Places. That makes it possible to qualify for grant money. It means that the building must be kept as it was originally built. Any re-building must put it back the way it was so that it looks the same.

2. The town must show it’s commitment by fixing the tower. Even though the town cannot afford to do all the work needed in the rest of the building, we have to show that we care enough to do what we can.

3. A master plan for restoring, maintaining and upgrading the entire building should be developed. A master plan shows the people who award grant money that we know what we are doing and have figured out the best way to get the work done.

I’ll write more about each of these things in future posts. The committee is working to get this done. The committee can only make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen. They are the decision makers. They represent you and will respond to what they hear from the people of the Corinna. I hope there is support in the town and the area to take care of the “Town Hall”.

If you have questions about my opinion or wish to contact me, click on the “Contact Ken” link at the top of this page. Follow me on Twitter @KenJDow, where I tweet about this topic and the Levi Stewart Community Theater.

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This building survived, but needs attention.

Most of the buildings that were in the downtown area of Corinna are gone, torn down in the EPA cleanup just over a decade ago.

This one is still there, standing tall, as it has since completion in 1898. At that time some considered it one of the finest public buildings in Maine. Designed by architect, William H. Grimshaw, the building was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974.

SLB from the airThe Stewart Library Building was built by Levi M. Stewart, a childhood resident of Corinna, to honor his parents and to provide a public library for the town. Mr. Stewart grew up to be a prosperous lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Upon his death in 1910 his private book collection of more than 6000 volumes was shipped to Corinna and placed in the building. He was buried in the Village Cemetery in Corinna. He never married, some of his family descendants still live in town.

The building currently houses the Corinna Town Office, the Stewart Free Library, the Stewart Private Library, and is the home of the Levi Stewart Community Theater.

For the most part, the building is in good shape but it needs some attention. Most pressing is the need to repair the brick work in the clock tower. The mortar in some portions of the tower has disintegrated and needs to be replaced.

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