The Georgetown Public Library reopened Monday at its original location on R Street, three years after a debilitating fire forced the branch to close its doors for repairs.
Now, the library boasts a third floor, a reading terrace overlooking Book Hill Park, a large children’s room, a space designed specifically for teens, environmentally-friendly flooring made of renewable materials, 40 computers and handicap ramps, among others.
In addition, the $16 million renovation successfully restored much of the library’s original historic furniture and materials. The third-floor Peabody Room, which is larger than the original room destroyed in the fire, has been restored and refurbished with the original bookcases, tables and chairs that were salvaged from the fire and repaired. The library’s new woodwork and furniture was created in the style of the original 1935 library, to preserve the historic neo-Georgian architectural style.
The opening of the new library is the result of three years of restoration efforts. The renovations were completed on time and on budget, according to Tracy Sumler, the library’s branch manager.
“I am relieved and happy that it is finally open,” Sumler said. “There was a lot of nervous energy moving in, but now we can all breathe a sigh of relief.”
The opening of the Georgetown Library at its original location led to the closing of the interim Georgetown Library, at 3307 M St., next to Qdoba, on Sept. 25. While the staff of the interim library was sad to leave, “everyone has been saying how great the new library is,” Sumler said.
Public reception has been positive. “People who have been coming in have really been overwhelmed,” Sumler said.
Special collections librarian Jerry McCoy, who played a large role in restoring and reprocessing the library’s Peabody collection, recalls being “absolutely traumatized” by the fire, which severely damaged the library’s Peabody Room along with the room’s historic books, maps, photos, manuscript collections and 44 pieces of artwork.
Following the fire, materials that were water damaged were immediately placed in freezer trucks to prevent molding and sent to Texas, where they were freeze-dried, according to McCoy. The 444 boxes of restored materials were shipped back to the library to be reprocessed.
A complete restoration of the Peabody’s art collection will cost $125,000, according to McCoy. McCoy said that while everything can be conserved, only three of the 44 paintings have been restored, due to generous private donations. The artwork is on display in the new Peabody Room along with the original furniture that McCoy said he is adamant on restoring.