The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 04, 2000

New lease on life for landmark library

By The Building Tradesman

MARQUETTE - The Peter White Public Library, a repository for books for nearly a century, is getting a little more shelf space.

The largest public library in the Upper Peninsula is in the midst of a $9 million expansion, having long outgrown the original 1904 building and 1958 addition. The cramped, antiquated, 25,000 square-foot building could not meet the needs of the physically disabled, is poorly set up for computers, and the heating, air conditioning, lighting and electrical systems are all inadequate or inefficient.

The White library has 140,000 print and non-print items and serves about 23,000 cardholders every year - nearly four times the number of cardholders in 1958 - but the facility has not been upgraded since.

Enter the building trades and general contractor Gundlach-Champion, who are in the midst of renovating the landmark library building at Front and Ridge Streets and building a new addition. The 1958 addition, built on a different level than the main building, complicated the renovation, never did flow well and is being demolished. The new addition will go over the old.

The project began in September 1998 and is slated for completion in August.

"My project superintendent and I and a lot of the tradespeople working on the library are from Marquette, so we're very interested in it," said Project Manager Mike Kolky. "The building is a landmark and we're proud of what we're doing. The tradespeople have been excellent, and we have some real good contractors out here."

Kolky said all the library materials were moved to Northern Michigan University during the renovation and expansion, and the interior of the old library was stripped to a shell. Late last month, the trades were well into the finish work.

He said the major obstacle on the project has been the difficulty tying into the existing foundations. The old foundations are very fragile, he said, and new load-bearing footings and columns had to be installed where the new addition meets the old building. "The old building just wasn't designed for the new load," Kolky said.

The building renovation/expansion project will increase the building to approximately 60,000 square feet and provide a 200-250 seat auditorium.

Named for local a philanthropist who first provided money for a library in the city, the original Beaux Arts Classical-style library building was built with a white limestone exterior and an interior of white marble, weathered oak and stained glass windows. The renovated building should serve the community well for the next 100 years. 

CONSTRUCTED IN 1904, the Peter White Public Library in Marquette is undergoing a major renovation and expansion.

ELECTRICIAN Joe Holm of M & J Electric and IBEW Local 1070 wires a lighting fixture inside the Peter White Public Library.