Excitement coursed through the Georgetown Neighborhood Library on Tuesday night, as donors gathered to tour the resurrected monument. The building will reopen to the public on Oct. 18 with $16 million in renovations after the 2007 fire.
Few will forget April 30, 2007, when flames engulfed much of the landmark, destroying dozens of community artifacts and gutting a treasured piece of Georgetown history.
Project architect James G. Reigle, from Washington-based architectural firm Martinez and Johnso, led a tour through the building. Reigle was excited by results thus far, but insisted that "It's not quite there. There's a lot to do to get ready for the opening … a lot to fix up."
Even in its unfinished state, with many empty shelves and lingering construction materials, the building was impressive.
High ceilings and arched doorways adorn a spacious floor plan filled with natural light from large windows. Deep mahogany furniture offers ample workspace and stately reading chairs adorn most rooms.
The old second floor children's library, which was left completely roofless by the fire, is now an adult library with communal computer access. The new children's library occupies a spacious basement filled with various private meeting rooms. Eve-Lyn and Brian Turmail were looking forward to returning to the library, a place they frequented with their children before the fire. "It looks fantastic", they said.
In the elevator to the new third floor a handful of Georgetowners excitedly remarked about the return of such a historically significant building. "You know, there are so many new libraries in Washington, but it is hard to imagine anything competing with this," said one neighbor. The new third floor, the Peabody Level, is named after George Peabody, who made the initial donation to establish the library in 1867. When the library opens Oct. 18, it will house the historical artifacts salvaged from the fire.
Project manager Chris Wright said the total cost of the renovations was approximately $16 million, made possible by support from the District Council and private donations.
Ginnie Cooper, D.C.'s Chief Librarian said, "This is an incredible building. It really is a gift to the community, from the community."