WEST PARIS — Looking at the Arthur L. Mann Memorial Library in West Paris from the front, you could believe you’d stepped back in time to an era when people still regularly inhabited castles.

The building, made of broken fieldstone gathered from local fields in 1926, has embrasures carved into the top of the building, giving it a castle-like look. When people walk through the front door, they’re walking past the original oak door that was installed in the early 20th century.

The library was constructed in 1926, based on a design by Gibbs & Pulsifer in Lewiston.

On Jan. 5, 1989, the library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and, since then, David Macdowell, who serves as the chairman of the Arthur L. Mann Memorial Library board of trustees, said the trustees have applied for grants to renovate older sections of the building.

While a 2010 addition helped provide more space for books without disturbing the castle-like design of the structure, Macdowell said the rest of the library is more than 90 years old and “showing its age in places.”

About a year and a half ago, Macdowell said, the board of trustees began looking at the building to see what else needed work.

“One of the projects that we wanted to do was install new drapes in the windows in front of the library,” Macdowell said. “However, in looking at the building, we discovered that there were some moisture problems around the windows. We were told that if we put new drapes in, they wouldn’t last more than two or three years before needing to be replaced.”

At the Oct. 13 meeting of the West Paris Board of Selectmen, the board accepted a $17,500 grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, which was given to the Arthur L. Mann Memorial Library.

Macdowell said the trustees reached out to Building Envelope Specialists, a consulting firm out of South Portland, to make an assessment of the library and determine what areas should be addressed first.

Following the assessment, Macdowell said, the trustees learned the library was in need of roof, window and masonry repairs.

“They gave us a full set of specific areas in which the library could be improved,” Macdowell said. “They looked at little things, like the pitch of the roof or what type of window is being used.”

The next step for the board was to task the Building Envelope Specialists with putting some of the recommended projects out to bid to see what it would cost.

“Our first priority is fixing the roof,” Macdowell said. “I think we’re looking at an overhaul on the roof, rather than patching it up. The useful life of a roof is about 20 to 25 years, and the roof up there now is about 18 years old.”

Trustees would make their first project dependent on the “prices that come back from the bids,” Macdowell said.

“Once we see what everything costs, we would look at whether we need additional grants or fundraisers to cover the costs,” he added.

The Arthur L. Mann Library has a reserve account that can be accessed if a renovation is needed, or if something needs to be purchased, Macdowell said.

There is also an account containing $55,000 that a West Paris resident left to the library when he passed away.

“Including interest, that account has around $90,000,” Macdowell said. “The trustees are allowed to spend at least $40,000. We can’t go below the principal amount in the account.”

Macdowell said that he and the other eight members of the board are proud of the way the library has become a place for the community to come together, and they want to make sure the building stays in good condition.

“The contractors are busy right now, but we’re hoping that we can get someone to do some work by the end of next year,” he said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.