Urbana Free Library Foundation Seeks Donations to Replace Porch Floors
A century after The Urbana Free Library was built, the building’s iconic front porch along Race Street remains closed due to concerns it could collapse.
Now The Urbana Free Library Foundation, as part of its annual fund drive, is asking Library supporters to contribute toward replacement of the north and south porch floors. This will be an expensive job, which the Library wants to do right to preserve the porch well into the future. Initial estimates place the potential cost at $100,000.
The Library has hired a structural engineer, who determined that the porch floors need complete replacement, said Celeste Choate, the Library’s Executive Director. “The rebar inside the concrete is falling apart due to the freeze-and-thaw cycle,” said Choate. “It’s 100 years old.”
Choate said the Library patrons often read and study on the porch during warmer months – and that reopening them is a great goal for the historic Library building’s 100th anniversary in 2018. The historic Urbana Free Library building was designed by Urbana architect Joseph Royer, who also was the architect for the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana High School, and the Urbana Lincoln Hotel.
“When people think of the Library, they think of the porch and the Race Street entry,” she said. “The porch is the face of the Library and it connects the Library to downtown.”
The Library Foundation’s annual fund drive letter is going out this week and the need to repair the porch is highlighted as a top priority, along with landscaping the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Race and Green streets. Library supporters donated more than $100,000 this past year to help make the lot purchase possible.
Choate said that the Library will be seeking public input about how to best landscape the vacant lot within the next week. When available, public input will be welcomed here. Library Foundation Board President Ruth Wyman said she is confident Urbana residents will continue to support the Library.
“We have a great opportunity to rebuild the Library so that the historical – as well as the structural – integrity remains for another 100 years,” Wyman said. “The Urbana Free Library is so important to so many of us.”
Those interested in donating to the Library Foundation’s annual fund drive can make their gift through the Library’s website at www.urbanafreelibrary.org.