The city is applying for a state historic planning grant to create a historic preservation plan for the Danforth Memorial Library in order to seek out funds to renovate the grand building designed by architect Henry Bacon, designer of the Lincoln Memorial.
Paterson is submitting an application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a $25,000 grant to prepare a preservation plan for the library which is listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places.
“The main library is in dire need of renovation and stabilization in some cases,” said Cindy Czesak, library director for the Paterson Free Public Library, to the city council on Tuesday night. “We’re hoping if we can get this preservation plan in place we can then pursue trust grants.”
Czesak said the building which is home to the main branch of the city’s library system suffers from water infiltration and handicap accessibility issues. There’s also concerns about air quality and temperature inside the building on the corner of Broadway and Auburn Street, she said.
The last time the building received a grant was in 1993, said the director. Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres said the city replaced the doors to the library about half-decade ago. More recently, the city repaired the sidewalk in front of the library building.
Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, wanted the city to repair the library parking lot. The mayor said the city can make external improvements at the library using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds due to the location of the building being in a low-income census tract.
Torres said the expert study will improve the city’s chances of securing grant money for renovation work. “It’s very competitive,” he said.
The Paterson Free Public Library was established in 1885 as the first public library in New Jersey through a vote by the residents of Paterson. However, the Danforth building is not the oldest library building in the state, said the director.
Czesak said the Danforth Memorial Library building opened in 1905. It was built with a generous donation from Mary Danforth Ryle in memory of her father Charles Danforth.
“This is really a remarkable historic site. It’s a national historic site in Paterson and one that should be preserved,” said Czesak.