From beneath layers of paint and grime, a century-and-a-half-old mansion is emerging, soon to be open to the public for the first time in a generation.
OK, the ‘soon’ part is relative, given that the project is a couple of months behind schedule. But Debbie Griffin-Sadel, director of the Red Bank Public Library, believes that the restoration and update of the facility will be completed by October at the latest, and will be worth the wait.
redbankgreen got an exclusive preview recently, and it certainly raised our expectations.
Among the highlights: the ornately trimmed former Eisner family living room that spans the first floor on the West Front Street side of the building. Lushly finished in Victorian paneling and trim, plaster ceiling cartouches and bold wood flooring, the room is a trip back in time, albeit in this case only to the 1920s, when it was added to the circa 1850s mansion.
Slated to become the ‘Eisner New Jersey Room,’ housing a collection of materials about the state and the borough, it’s a space that hasn’t been open to the general public since the late 1960s, said Griffin-Sadel.
On the second floor are two former bedrooms demurely linked at the front of the house by a tiny nook that also held a narrow, one-person elevator. Those rooms, too, will be open to the public, she said.
The third floor will be open to library staff only.
On the ground floor, we got to see, looking up at the exposed ceiling, exactly where the old wooden house was joined to the modernistic 1968 addition that contains the bulk of the library’s collection. And therein lies at least one source of the delay in completing the remodeling, a job that was originally expected to be finished last month.
“You’ve got an 1850s house attached to a 1960s cinderblock construction,” Griffin-Sadel says. “There are some unique problems you’re going to run into.” In this case, those included the discovery of asbestos insulation on the heating vents that had to be removed, with all the precautions such work entails.
Now, even though the main floor of the library looks like quite a mess, Griffin-Sadel says its largely cosmetic work that remains installing carpeting, repositioning shelving and restocking them with books that have been in storage for almost a year. When we were there, the components of a new elevator had just been unpacked for installation.
The library could reopen as soon as late August, Griffin-Sadel said, “though we’d have to suspend Murphy’s Law” for that to happen.”
Meantime, library patrons have begun taking advantage of “Library Express,” the temporary pick-up and drop-off facility at the corner of Maple Avenue and West Front Street, Griffin-Sadel said.
“There were a lot of people who were pretty desperate for books,” she said.
The storefront facility is a pared-down version of the real thing. There’s no public computer access, no reference books, no wandering of the stacks or periodical area. “But if you’re looking for a good beach book, we can help you,” the director says.
The borough is renting the space for $100 a month from Hovnanian Enterprises.