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  Osterhout Free Library, Exterior Restoration

Osterhout Free Library, Exterior RestorationArchitect

Eyerman.Csala.Hapeman & Handman Architects
69 Public Square, #1000, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

General Description

Location: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Date Bid: Nov 2007
Construction Period: Mar 2008 to Sep 2009
Total Square Feet: 11,850
Site: .81 acres.
Number of Buildings: One. Building Size: Building footprint, 11,850 square feet. Building Height: Total, 65’+/-.
Basic Construction Type: Exterior Historic Restoration. Foundation: n/a.
Exterior Walls: Brick. Roof: Membrane, Pennsylvania slate. Floors: n/a. Interior Walls: n/a.

Construction Team

Structural Engineer: E. D. Pons & Associates, Inc. - 70 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
General Contractor: Masonry Preservation Services, Inc. - 7255 Old Berwick Road, Bloomsburg, PA 17815
Roofing Contractor: General Roofing Systems, Inc. - 13 Dauphin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702

Recent scholarship has uncovered documentation indicating that the second building of Wilkes-Barre's First Presbyterian Church was a "mail-order" project of New York City Architect James Renwick, Jr. Renwick (1818-1895) was Architect of New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral (1853-1887) and the original Castle building (1846) of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Records show that Renwick was paid for plans sent to the First Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre, but no record exists of his visiting Wilkes-Barre prior to submitting his design. Numerous architectural details of this church building bear an uncanny resemblance to Renwick’s 1850 Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel in Georgetown, D.C. Construction began in 1849 on the First Presbyterian Church, it was dedicated in December 1851 and built at a cost of $15,000.

Except for the Church Bell Tower on the south corner, the original building remained unaltered for many years. An early rendering, as well as a pre-1890 photograph, show a tall tapered spire of approximately the same height as the brick tower on which it rests. Photographs from the early history of the OFL (c.1900±) show a pyramid shaped roof (of approximately a 12/12 pitch) resting on top of the original brick Bell Tower. At some unknown later date (estimated to be c.1908) this roof was removed, and the crenellated terra cotta, brick parapet wall, and flat roof (which resembles the tower at the Smithsonian) was built.

In the early 20th century, the OFL continued to expand, and the first of several additions was begun. In 1906 Wilkes-Barre Architectural firm of Welsh & Sturdevant was hired to design a 3-story Stack Wing Addition on the south side of the original building. The similarity in the Terra Cotta trim on this addition to the Terra Cotta coping on top of the Bell Tower, leads this writer to believe that the pyramid shaped Bell Tower roof was removed at this time. Also containing a catalog room and a repair room, this addition is noteworthy for its 32 stained/leaded glass windows. Designed by the second head librarian, Miss Myra Poland, the windows were executed by the H.J. Smith & Sons Co. of Philadelphia and completed in 1908.

Two modest office additions on the backside of the Library were completed in 1954 and 1964. The Ken Pollack Children’s Wing on the front (South) corner was designed by this firm in 1982.

By the beginning of the 21st Century, the original Church Building, as well as the 1908 Stack Wing, were exhibiting signs of "old age." After receiving reports from roof and masonry consultants, the Architect was hired to perform a comprehensive analysis of the OFL facility. The result of this study was the recommendation of a 5-Phase renovation program. In 2006 the OFL applied for and received substantial renovation grants from the Keystone Grant Program of the Commonwealth Libraries and from Luzerne County.

The Architect was authorized in April 2007 to begin Construction Documents on the first 3 phases of OFL's exterior renovations, which included complete masonry restoration of the 1849 former Church, the “Unknown” Addition and 1908 Stack Wing, as well as the complete rebuilding (with salvaged brick & terra cotta) of the top 15-feet± of the Bell Tower. New wood and aluminum louvers were replicated to replace the deteriorated louvers in the Bell Tower. Stained glass windows in both portions were removed, restored and reinstalled with new vented protective storm windows.

A new flat seam copper roof was installed on top of the Bell Tower, and Black Pennsylvania Slate was replaced on the 1908 Stack Wing. A new contemporary pole-mounted sign and modest landscaping was also included in this phase of work. No work was done on the 1954/64 and 1982 additions. Reconstruction of the OFL began in March 2008 and was completed June 2009.

Product Information
New Brick: Glen Gery EPDM
Roof: Firestone
Stained Glass Restoration & New Storm Windows: The Baut Studios, Inc.

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