Pequot Library restores 127-year-old roof in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD – The roof of the 127-year-old Pequot Library is fully restored – a large-scale venture that has requested nearly $ 1.5 million in donations.

The library began work on the roof restoration in 2020 after a 2019 study by New Haven-based architecture firm Pirie Associates ranked the structure as “an urgent priority.”

General contractors Kronenberger and Sons Restoration, a company specializing in the restoration of historic buildings, began construction about 10 months ago and completed it this summer. A ribbon cut took place on July 14 at the library to accommodate the new roof.

“The exceptional support from the Southport-Fairfield community has been extremely inspiring,” said Stephanie J. Coakley, Executive Director of the library. “Pequot Library’s dedicated patrons and business supporters, as well as the Town of Fairfield, have generously helped us care for one of Fairfield’s most revered public buildings and we will be forever grateful to them.

During the comprehensive condition assessment plan, which was supported by the State Historic Preservation Office, the study identified historic roof repair not only to preserve the entire structure, but also to protect the special collections of the library of rare books, manuscripts and archives, the library mentioned.

The original red-tiled roof was built in 1893, four years after the Pequot Library was founded by Southport residents Virginia Marquand Monroe and Elbert B. Monroe. The library building was designed by American architect Robert H. Robertson and opened to the public in 1894.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized the library with a Connecticut Treasures Award in 2018.

Its history will be celebrated again in due time. A time capsule was placed in the eaves of the attic during construction, which included letters to future library employees and supporters as well as memorabilia from the past year. The time capsule is due to open in 2071 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the new roof.

Kronenberger and Sons Restoration is no stranger to old rooftops. He worked on many historic buildings including the Stowe House, Mark Twain House and Central Church in Hartford, Gillette Castle in East Haddam, and the Florence Griswold House in Old Lyme.

“We were honored to guide the renovation that polished this exquisite architectural gem; its texture, color and rugged detailing perfectly reflect the unique treasures within, ”said Laura Pirie, of Pirie Associates, who led the entire roof repair and restoration.

Pirie Associates has extensive experience in their own historic renovation projects, including the Amos Bull House and the Butler McCook Carriage House for the Connecticut Landmarks headquarters.

“We would like to thank the team of talented architects and engineers who gave this building the attention it deserves,” said Pirie. “In addition, the leadership and community of the Pequot Library are to be commended for taking a long-term view, investing in and preserving this magnificent and historically important structure for future generations. “

This project was not without challenges, however.

The actual construction of the project involved the replacement of the Ludowici tiles to maintain the longevity and historical integrity of the building.

The historic roof layout also consisted of four different intersecting shapes, along with dormers, gables, pyramids, and chimneys that functioned to seal the exterior. The original roof underlayment also had to be replaced, along with the gutters and flashings.

The total $ 1.6 million project also supported the restoration of the upper level of the auditorium’s stained glass windows and the strengthening of the fundamental elements under the steps and portico.

While the library receives a percentage of its annual general operating budget from the city, Pequot was responsible for raising funds to cover the remaining operating costs and the full percentage of its capital expenditures.

The roof funding sparked some controversy during the budget process, as the city discussed donating $ 100,000 to the library for the project. City officials were on both sides of the fence. Some feared that this would set a bad precedent for funding a nonprofit investment project, while others thought it was a one-time fundraising opportunity.

In the end, all three city councils approved the $ 100,000 to win the private game.

Most of the funding for the project came from donations and fundraising from the library.

A total of 355 donations have helped support the library’s fundraising campaign with more than 200 donors participating in the “Sponsor-a-Tile” program in the past six months, according to a press release.

The Southport Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and restoration of unique and historic buildings and properties in Southport, and the Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act Tax Credit Program also helped fund the project. .

The library is looking for grant opportunities for other areas of necessary capital improvements identified in the Conditions Assessment Report.

Visit to learn more about the library. For more information, call 203-259-0346 ext. 115. Follow the Pequot Library on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Paul Cox

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