Monday, March 10, 2008

Let's Just Go Ahead and Admit It . . .

Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, R.I.

his is not a picture of our library
. You know that. And you know that I find very little to fault about Fort Worth. I have lived in other cities. And we Fort Worthians have it good.

--- But --

Our library leaves something to be desired. I don't mean the books, the people or the scope of the activities. I have no complaint there. But the building is, well, not as good as we should have.

This came to mind yesterday when I was reading a New York Times article on various libraries around the country. Many of which with spectacular buildings.

When I first moved to Fort Worth 25 years ago, I spent many hours exploring the library in what was essentially a basement downtown. When the construction of a real building on top of the basement started, I thought we would get a respectable facility. What we have is a decent facade on top of a library in a basement.

Maybe there just isn't enough interest in the whole library idea in this day of electronic medium. Libraries are a throwback to a past when paper was expensive as were the books they made. The average guy could not afford many books and libraries were a way for the common man to have access to the books that only the wealthy once had. Before online research, students, researchers and the just plain curious would camp out in a library to find whatever it is one needed. I did it often.

Fort Worth deserves an old stately downtown library with loaded bookshelves, big chairs, sturdy tables and librarians who glare at "loud-talkers" like nuns glaring at misbehaving children in church.

The downtown Post Office --- yea ---- that's the ticket.


Rambler said...

I wish you had known the old library. It stood on the point of land across from the Municipal Court building (just north of St. Patrick's). You came into a wide foyer from which radiated a couple of halls lined with shelves. I remeber the big, high-ceilinged reading rooms (no big stuffed chairs that I remember, mostly tables). It looked, felt, and smelled like a library ought to look, fell, and smell.

As it turns out, the family that gave the land specified that it be used for a library. I think an old-fashioned Carnegie library stood there fore the Depression-era building I grew up loving. In any case, when the city built the basement, itself an adjunct to the Tandy Center, the building stood vacant for years and the land finally reverted to the family, who made it a parking lot.

The worst is that little odd shaped building at the back of the lot: it was a delightful surprise tucked into the alley behind the libraary. Now, exposed to the world, it's just odd.

Francis Shivone said...

Thanks Rambler -- great comment.

Actually, a couple of the buildings in the NYTimes article are refurbished Carnegie buildings. I still don't understand why the basement was built. Can you explain or tell me where I can find the info.

Rambler said...

I think I was away from FW when they built the basement, but maybe in college(?) At any rate, I had family here and was generally appalled.

I am thinking it was built underground mainly as an energy saving measure (this was the 70s), but it also had direct access to the Tandy Center, which was the center of downtown activity back then. Of course, it also gave access to the subway and all that parking on the river.

Even with the old library, we would park on the river, ride the subway into the Leonard's Brother's basement, then walk on down to the other end of town. Of course, there would be a 25 cent Napolean just inside the basement of Leonard's and after studying at the library, a frozen malt at the Stripling Bros. cafe.

Of course, those were the days of architectural minimalism. I think the city hall comes from that period, I think, although it's much less obnoxious than the library.

Francis Shivone said...

Yea- that makes sense. The connection to the Tandy center and the subway. When I got here in the early eighties their best days were past and downtown was getting quieter not busier.

I agree on the minimalist architecture but I am not sure City Hall is much better, that is another god-awful building.

Again, many thanks, that helps.

Rambler said...

Perhaps I should have said city hall is "less awful". Of course, it's hard to compare two buildings when one is (was) a basement topped by a little box. At least the new library overhead is pretty good.

With any luck, the old post office will be the new city hall, with the old lobby intact. I never knew it was such a wonderful building until they took down the overhead.

Francis Shivone said...

I agree, the post office is a great building as is its neighbor, the old railroad station.

We're fortunate to have many beautiful buildings but the 60-70's period was not a good time for buildings.

My favorite worst, is the DMV building on east loop 820. It's like a military bunker. with slots for windows.