The Hall Memorial Library, serving Tilton and Northfield, NH, was built in the Queen Anne style in 1885. Since the original construction, very little had been done to alter the building in any way, other than adding electric lights. When we met our clients, they let us know that this was a beloved building, and they didn’t want any foolish architects wrecking it. Their preference was for no visible change to the exterior, but they needed three times as much interior space. Oh, and it had to be made accessible. At SMP, we like a challenge, and our job was to solve the functional need, stay within a manageable budget, and make it look like we were never there.
By building an addition roughly the size of the original, hiding it around back, and making it a split-level scheme with one floor below, half into the ground, SMP solved the mystery of tripling the size without overwhelming the original. The half level elevator would be in the new entrance. The old entrance, with its leaded glass windows, would become the director’s office. At the juncture between the new and old would be the circulation desk, which afforded the best views to each side.
Since the library was financed by two towns, it had to pass simultaneously at both town meetings. The modest appearance of the design, combined with the deferred maintenance of the old building that was incorporated into the budget, held the day—and the library passed easily.
Modern materials were used to simulate the brownstone masonry and brick of the original. Combined with vertically emphasized window openings that actually span both floors, the addition uses low-visibility camouflage to blend in. Dirt, or lack thereof, was an issue, but our friends at the Preservation Alliance advised against simulated grime and patina. Time will mellow the addition to match. All-in-all, the charge to SMP was accomplished; the old library got a new lease on life and the changes didn’t overwhelm the landmark.