Sunday, December 26, 2010

Syracuse: University's Carnegie Library Reading Room to be Renovated

Syracuse University, Carnegie Library. Two recent views, photos: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse University, Carnegie Library. Architect's view of planned reading room renovation. Courtesy: Syracuse University Library

Syracuse: University's Carnegie Library Reading Room to be Restored as First Phase in Building Renovation
by Samuel D. Gruber

In my previous post I included a dramatic photo of sculptor Luise Kaish's bronze statue of the Saltine Warrior, back bent and bow taut between two towers of Syracuse University's Carnegie Library. I have good news about the building, designed by Frederick W. Revels and Earl Hallenbeck as part of the 1906 University Plan, and opened in 1907 as one of the most impressive academic Carnegie libraries in the country. The duo designed many of most impressive campus buildings of the first decades of the 20th century (Lyman Hall with it great tower remains my favorite). Their work was imposing and ornate, but never very graceful. Many of these classically inspired Beaux-Arts buildings are bulky and ponderous on their exteriors, but they were well-designed for multipurpose academic use, and most still function today as class buildings. Their virtue is that they are well built and relatively easily adaptabted to all but the most intensely hi-tech fields. Only where their original spaces have been carved up and/or extra floors added - as in Bowne Hall - do they seem really awkward. The recent restoration of Slocum Hall, for example, has returned the building to much of its original spacious and appealing layout and appearance.

The history of the building in word and images can be found at Carnegie Library 1907-2007, a site developed for the building's centennial celebrated in 2007. Click "browse" to view this collection of over 200 photographs of the Carnegie Library, that includes the 1905 ground breaking through the 2007 centennial. The historical images were digitized from the Syracuse University Archives’ collection of campus building photographs. Links to historical news articles and information may be found at the Carnegie Library History.

After a hundred years of hard use, so hard in fact that the original entrance from the very Quad it helped define is now closed, the Carnegie Library will be renovated. Progress depends on money, but already the first of five planned phases has begun. The grand reading room will be restored and returned to its original purposes.

In time other spaces in the building that have been chopped in pieces, as well as blocked circulation paths, will returned a much as possible to their original purpose and appearance. The building is apparently only one of three academic (as opposed to public) Carnegie libraries in the country that still - at least in part - serves it original function. built as the main campus library to replace the much smaller von Ranke Library (now Tolley Hall), the structure is now served by the Science-Technology Library, the Math library and the Math Department. Phase I of the project involves moving some of the Math Department functions from the great second floor reading room to newly newly reorganized space on the first floor. in the reading room floor, ceilings, furniture and lighting will all be refurbished, restored or replaced in accordance to the space's original appearance - updated with plenty of electrical outlets to accommodate laptop computers. In Phase III the building's main entrance will be reopened with new glass doors and railing on the exterior stairs, while new restrooms and other amenities are added inside. You can read more about the renovation on the Syracuse Library website.

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