St. Louis on the Air
10:35 am
Mon December 10, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Restoration Complete, Reopens To Public

The main location of the St. Louis Public Library system has reopened after a $70 million renovation and restoration.

The downtown landmark was unveiled to the public on Sunday, December 9, 2012 after more than two years of construction.

Host Don Marsh talked with Waller McGuire, Executive Director of the St. Louis Public Library and George Nikolajevich of Cannon Design.

Interview with Waller McGuire and George Nikolajevich

As St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann reported:

The Cass Gilbert-designed structure, which occupies a city block bounded by 13th, 14th, Locust and Olive streets, first opened to the public in January 1912. The renovation was timed to coincide with the library's centennial year.

The $70 million project included the restoration of original plaster, chandeliers, woodwork and granite, plus the installation of new electrical, plumbing and ventilation systems. In addition, the entire library now has wireless internet access. The St. Louis Public Library Foundation raised $20 million, and the library issued $50 million in bonds to cover the rest of the cost.

"It was always our intention to preserve one of America's great buildings, while giving it another century of life as one of America's great 21st century libraries," Waller McGuire, the executive director of the St. Louis Public Library, said.

The restoration also opened another 50,000 square feet of space to the public, including an expanded children's library and a brand new auditorium. In addition, books that used to be stored in seven floors of glass-floored stacks are now spread throughout the library, making them more easily accessible.

The library is also, for the first time, fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including a new pedestrian entrance from Locust St.

Lead architect George Nikolajevich with Cannon Design says that new entrance best displays the combination of respect for Gilbert's original building with modern design principles.

"What we have created is a stainless steel canopy that protects people from the elements," Nikolajevich said. "It's very modern, it comes out of the fountain, but it doesn’t touch the building."

McGuire says the $70 million project is coming in right on time, and under budget.

To see more photos of the St. Louis Public Library, past and present, go here.

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