A book about the Handley Regional Library of Winchester Virginia, including the recent historic renovation by Dennis Kowal Architects, won in the Best-Non Fiction category of the Independent Publishers Award (also known as the “IPPYS”). The book details the history of the Library and how the most significant Beaux Arts Style building in the State of Virginia ended up in beautiful, but rural, Winchester.
At the time when Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) was hired, a previous study had concluded that the nearly 100 year old structure was beyond repair and should be demolished. DKA saved the building by determining a feasible approach and cost to the historic renovation and proved the facility could be sensitively altered to be barrier free, technologically proficient, and large enough to meet the needs of the community as a public library. The building is now celebrating it’s centennial and functions beautifully as a state-of-the-art library within the historic structure. Library Director, Trish Ridgeway, reports that book circulation and attendance have both doubled as a result of the renovation and because “Dennis Kowal Architects listened to what we wanted”.
The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and required a strict adherence to preservation guidelines. Technically a “rehabilitation” because while most building elements were restored to their original construction, some parts of the library were creatively altered to adapt to the current needs of an operating library. For example, the five tiered, glass floored, iron stack assembly was repaired, cleaned and restored but now as three tiers to better align with the other floors of the building.
Restoration involved almost every trade and material from the stained glass dome to the “bottle glass” cast-iron floor gratings. When discarded components were found in the attic, they were re-purposed in the renovation such as using the old wood-shuttered toilet stall doors for the restored telephone booth.
The completed facility features frosted glass floors that were once painted, restored tiger oak millwork, furniture duplicated to match the original library desks and chairs, replacement limestone tooled to match the original, restored terrazzo, refurbished lighting fixtures, restored and duplicated ornamental copper work, and the original circulation desk now converted into a bench and sculpture. The 100 year old glass floors were creatively back-lit to give the new Young Adult Room a modern flare.
Many of the original materials of the structure were badly decomposed or missing. DKA painstakingly reproduced copper scrolls, original light fixtures, and restored as much of the original fabric as possible including the massive tiger oak entry doors and the entire limestone exterior.
The Library suffered from maintenance neglect, settling foundation walls, bird and air pollution staining, and some structural failures. Thanks to the caring renovation and the completion of details on the original drawings but never executed, the Library now looks better than the day it was first built.