The orange barriers in front of Magness Library have likely caught the attention of motorists for the past month. The cost to restore the library will catch some eyes as well, as a $100,000 estimate has been provided.
The estimate is for work to repair a broken column and protect the building’s limestone facade from future damage.a
In mid-January, a decorative piece of one of the front columns broke away, fell to the ground, and shattered into smaller pieces. The incident prompted library officials to section off a large area in front of the library with orange barriers and contact the Tennessee Historical Preservation Society.
According to library director Brad Walker, the decision was made to go with Wastco Masonry because that company is one of two recommended by the National Registry of Historic Places for this type of work and Magness Library has been on the National Registry since 1993.
“Wastco will be able to restore the column,” Walker said. “They said they could take the pieces that I have in my office and put those back together. They have a compound to completely restore it back to where it looks original.”
The news was welcome, says Walker.
“You can’t imagine how thrilled I was to hear that. If we couldn’t do that, the look of the building would have been ruined for me. Anytime you come into downtown McMinnville, you come down Main Street. This is one of the most impressive buildings on Main Street. Once that piece fell, I notice it every time I looked at the building. It disturbed me.”
The column, as well as the whole facade of the building, is made of limestone, which weakens as it ages. The original building was constructed in 1931.
In order to strengthen the limestone and help prevent further damage, Wastco Masonry is going to place a sealant on the entire building — excluding the new addition.
The cost of preservation is not cheap.
“It’s going to cost close to $100,000,” said Rachel Killebrew, Magness Library board member and building manager. “I think that’s a really good estimate. I thought it would cost a lot more than that.”
Because the building is listed on the National Registry, a grant may be possible.
“There is a historic preservation grant available,” said Killebrew. “We’ve gotten our application in, but I’m sure there is a lot of competition for it. Because it’s a federal grant, I don’t expect the award announcement any time soon. It could be August before we hear something.”
The grant would cover 60 percent of the cost. However, in order to qualify for the grant, the work cannot be done until after the grant is awarded. And, as with any grant, there is no guarantee that it will be awarded.
Killebrew says board members will be meeting this week and they have a tough decision to make: wait several months for a grant they may not receive or foot the entire bill now.
“Can we afford to wait?” said Killebrew. “Can we host enough fundraisers to come up with $100,000? We just have a tough decision to make. I don’t know if that decision can be made this week, but it will be made. We care about this building, and we don’t want anyone thinking that we are dragging our feet on fixing it. We are not.”
While the barriers are in place, patrons can access the library through the side entrance.