Re-roofing the library dome

The Bangor Public Library in Maine has a beautiful home in a Classical-style structure built in 1913. It has high-ceilinged rooms with fireplaces, lots of wood trim around doors and windows, built-in shelving tucked into all the walls, and great seating options to while away the time with a book. Additions were built in the 1950s and 1990s to accommodate a growing collection, but the new parts are sympathetically built and continue the use of small rooms with interesting nooks and crannies (kudos to architect Robert A.M. Stern for tying the old and the new together so well).

That would be enough to make for a great library, but the moment I entered the front doors, I looked up and was utterly captivated by an enormous dome in the ceiling on the third floor. It was ornately decorated and let in loads of light. I was surprised by it because I hadn’t noticed the dome from the outside since it was so high up.

A librarian told me that the scaffolding had just come down from around it on the outside, because, after 100 years, the old copper roof had become leaky and needed to be redone. To help with that process, the author Stephen King and his wife Tabitha, who live in the area, donated $3 million for renovations. (Literary tidbit: several King novels and short stories are set in the Bangor Public Library, including It and The Library Policeman.)

In April, the work of re-laying and soldering the copper and cleaning and repairing the windows was completed, and staff and townspeople alike are very proud of it. The librarian told me that for a few weeks the coppery colour was quite brilliant, but is now turning brown. She hopes it won’t take long for it to oxidize and return to its former green magnificence.

But, the old oxidized copper didn’t go to waste. It was auctioned off to raise money for the library. One enterprising jewelry merchant (Maine Jewelry and Art) bought some and made jewelry out of it, with half of the sale proceeds going back to the library. I wanted to make a contribution, so I bought a little bottle of copper shavings. What a great way to own part of a fabulous building!