Letter: It’s Time for an Incremental, Affordable Restoration of the Jones Library


Directions to the Woodbury Room, Jones Library. Photo: Art Keene

The following letter was sent to the Town Council and Town Manager on May 19, 2024.

Assuming the Town Councilors stay true to their campaign promises, to not allocate any more money to the Jones Library demolition/expansion project, then that contentious plan is effectually over.  

It’s time to pivot towards effecting long-deferred maintenance, starting with critical building elements like a new efficient heating system and roofing repair.  It is also time to start visioning a more modest and less divisive path forward for the existing Jones Library building.

My preference is for an incremental and affordable restoration program that will ultimately return the Jones to its former glory.  This requires a sea change in how we value the existing building.  Instead of viewing it as decrepit eyesore in need of disposal and replacement, I see it as a neglected historic treasure in need of restorative preservation.  I’m not alone in this thinking.  

In preparation for the stalled demolition/overbuild, the town commissioned the Jones Library HIstoric Structures Reporthttps://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/59930/Jones-Library-Historic-Structures-Report-FINAL prepared by Ann Marshall, PI, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Eric Gradoia, Consultant, Architectural History & Building Conservation and Carly Regalado, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts.

From the Executive Summary, (p.2):

Considering its age, the 1928 building appears to remain in good condition, a testament to accomplished design, the use of quality materials, and excellent construction. Any problems that have arisen largely relate to the age of the building and the fact that systems like the roofing, storm windows, and paint finishes have reached the end of their normal service life and need to be addressed. The most serious interior conditions observed relate to water infiltration brought on by roof problems. By and large, the physical condition of the building appears very good.

The report is very readable with a tons of photos depicting key significant architectural details and the areas in most need of repair, along with historical information telling the origins of the building.

From the Guideline for the Treatment of the 1928 Library, (p.57):

(P)reservation involves treating existing construction in a manner that respects the original design and intent of the architecture. Stewardship of the Jones Library comes with a number of challenges, foremost of which is a responsibility to preserve the unique architectural qualities of the building while also responding to changing programmatic needs and modern amenities. Unlike the static nature of a museum building, the Jones Library is a dynamic institution serving the community. While change is inevitable, it does not need to occur at the sacrifice of the historic integrity of the structure. 

It is time to start valuing our legacy buildings higher.  Both for the invested wealth in the materials and labor they are made of, but also for the history and architecture embedded within them.

-Jim Turner

Amherst, MA

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1 thought on “Letter: It’s Time for an Incremental, Affordable Restoration of the Jones Library

  1. Jim, thanks for this! I wholeheartedly agree that an incremental restoration/renovation is the way to go with Jones Library. Concord MA recently completed an incremental restoration of its historic library in this way and it was affordable. One important distinction: the metal roof on the 1990s brick addition is sound. It is the glass atrium in the center of the library building that leaks. Perhaps clerestory windows could replace the leaking atrium? Jones Library is indeed a gem, which in recent years, has unfortunately suffered from egregious neglect. It’s time to show the Jones Library some TLC and to remind ourselves that “the greenest building is the one already built.”

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