For most people in Sag Harbor, Monday was a normal fall day — the weather turning from grey and foggy to hot and muggy, children pouring in and out of school, families strolling down Main Street in the afternoon, running errands, collecting groceries.
But for Catherine Creedon, Monday was a day she has been waiting for since she was hired as the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library in 2007. It was the day Creedon could walk back to the library’s temporary home on West Water Street and tell her staff that the library had just received the last approval, from the last board, to restore and expand its historic Main Street facility.
On Monday, the John Jermain Memorial Library earned approval from the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) to add a 7,725 square-foot, modern addition to the rear of its 101-year-old Main Street building. The same day, just hours earlier, Creedon reported the library was also granted permission for an on-site septic system by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
The library had originally hoped to hook up to the Sag Harbor Village wastewater treatment plant, rather than install their own on-site septic system. However, after neighbors — who would have also been forced to hook up to the village treatment plant — expressed concerns, village officials denied the library’s request.
The small size of the library’s 201 Main Street parcel, and the fact that the village has a wastewater treatment plant, made a Suffolk County Health Department approval difficult at best. However, with the help of the village board — which donated an acre of land off the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike that will be preserved — the library was able to finally gain its approvals this week.
Sag Harbor School District residents approved nearly $10 million in funding for the project in August of 2009. The two approvals were the last the library needed to move forward with its plans after an arduous two-year village review.
On Monday evening, the library’s architect, Michael Scott of Newman Architects, reflected on the design of the addition noting that after several years of considering a second library at Mashashimuet Park, in 2009 the JJML board heard the community’s desire to keep the whole library on its historic site.
Wanting to keep the addition as one that allows the original library, constructed by Mrs. Russell Sage, to stand out and not be overshadowed by an expansion that will more than double the size of JJML, Scott said his firm chose the masonry and glass modern design for the addition.
“Our library distinguishes itself from the existing library in that it is more like a library built at the turn of this century, rather than the library that was built at the turn of the last century,” said Scott.
The goal, he said, was to tuck the new library behind the rear of the existing building, matching the limestone color on the new addition to the existing limestone on the historic library. Large glass windows face out towards Main Street and on Union and Jefferson streets. Scott said the design is meant to simulate the experience of sitting on a porch, looking out at the historic library and Sag Harbor beyond that.
A plaza will be shaped into the ground next to what is now the first floor entry to the three-story library and will be outfitted with free Wifi and computer jacks.
Inside, the first floor will be reconfigured to hold children’s services, offering easy access through the plaza off Jefferson for parents and caregivers toting children in and out of the library. The ground floor will also offer a program room and the teen collection.
The second story, where patrons have traditionally entered the library through its front door, will be completely restored with adult collections displayed there, along with a main circulation desk, a periodical reading room, reference desk, multimedia areas, gallery space and offices.
The third floor rotunda — the interior architectural gem of JJML — will also be fully restored, with original furniture, to its 1910 layout, including a working fireplace. It will be a contemplative reading and study space for the community, and will also hold the library’s first climate controlled history room and archive.
According to Creedon, the whole of the project should be completed in 18 months.
“I think it is wonderful,” said Cee Scott Brown, chair of the ARB. “It is really beautiful. That is going to put Sag Harbor on the map.”
“I think you are doing pretty good so far,” replied Scott.
In other ARB news, James and Pia Zenkel were approved for a gingerbread-inspired, white picket fence and gate at their 71 Jermain Avenue residence.
While architect Anthony Vermandois requested the Zenkels be allowed to construct the fence in painted azek, a composite, rather than wood, ARB member Bethany Deyermond reminded Vermandois that the village code demands wood be used for construction in the historic district.
The next meeting of the Sag Harbor ARB will be held on October 13 at 5 p.m.