Original library work revealed in demolition

       Two months into the interior makeover of the Old Colorado City Library, the demolition portion is just wrapping up, with framing getting underway on the main floor.
Branch Manager Julianne Rist and project foreman Dale Geist in the formerly sealed-off “vault” area. 
Westside Pioneer photo
A basement wall shows part of a mural from possibly 20 years ago that had been covered over.
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       “It's been interesting to watch it get taken apart,” said Library Manager Julianne Rist, who comes by at least once a week.
       The work is basically on schedule, although an unexpected basement structural issue emerged during demolition, according to Rist and project foreman Dale Geist. About six months had been foreseen for completion; the closest estimate at the moment is “in the fall,” Rist said.
       The demo also produced some good news: The library's sagging ceiling, which had to be temporarily shored up two years ago, did not result from weakening roof trusses, but evidently from occasional roof leaks dampening the plaster over the decades, Rist said workers have found. Taking no chances, contractor G.E. Johnson is shoring up the longest trusses - original 22-foot-long 2-by-12s - by nailing modern “engineered wood” to their sides. Similar to plywood, the latter consists of sheets of laminated wood glued together which are “actually stronger” than the old trusses, Geist said.
       Originally erected in 1904 with a $10,000 gift from wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the building at 2418 W. Pikes Peak Ave. has been closed since April 28.
       The work is Phase 2 of a multi-year building restoration effort that has been funded chiefly with donations and grants. The Phase 2 goal is to upgrade the heating/cooling, plumbing, electrical, computers (including wireless access and laptop usage) and employee work areas; expand public space (providing a public meeting/program room in the once-lightly used basement); and add a lift between the main floor and the basement.
       Where the lift will come down (at the northwest corner) was a roughly 40-square-foot basement area that had been sealed off for years. The recent demolition was the first time it had been opened in anyone's memory. Rist said the area had always been known as “the vault.” The demo revealed no surprises, but did show the construction style of the time, in which bricks were simply set on the ground and mortared upward to support the main floor of the library. Bricks, many bearing the name “Benn Brewer,” were additionally used in combination with boards as a kind of header below the main floor.
       But there is no need to undo such old-style work, to meet modern codes. Other than the need to remortar some of the bricks, everything has passed structural scrutiny and, as Geist pointed out, the old support system “was far from fragile. It held up a lot of books.”
       Rist enjoyed finding, when the carpeting was removed, that the subfloor still showed evidence of the original half-circle front desk. Plans call for restoring that desk in the middle of the main floor, much as it looked then. And, she noted, “it will almost be in the same place.”
       Phase 1 of the project in 2005 upgraded the exterior parts of the building. An as-yet-unscheduled Phase 3 is to spruce up the library's landscaping and parking lot.
       While the work goes on, library programs have been moved to other locations, including the West Intergenerational Center and Pikes Peak National Bank. The Pikes Peak Library District Bookmobile parks in front of the library from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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