Henniker library receives grant to restore stained-glass windows
Just outside director Lynn Piotrowicz’s office, sunlight filters green through a stained-glass window, throwing tinted rays onto the wall in the Tucker Free Library.
Inside Piotrowicz’s office, she has pinned black-and-white photographs of the librarians who came before her in nearly 110 years of Henniker history – such as the Bennett sisters, pictured in long winter coats next to a snowdrift outside the front steps sometime in the early 20th century, and John and Evelyn Hollis, the bespectacled married couple peering out from between the stacks mid-century.
Yesterday, the Executive Council approved a $10,000 grant that will be used to restore the building’s original stained-glass windows like the one outside Piotrowicz’s door, and that check is a welcome victory for the director who has spent months compiling the story of the library built in 1904.
“It’s an exciting day for the town of Henniker,” she said yesterday. “It’s a project that needs to be done. . . . It’s a great opportunity for us to preserve a beautiful resource in the community.”
This week, Piotrowicz pointed to cracks as thin as hairline fractures, the places where the glass is starting to buckle. The 17 windows are simple, just vertical strips of green glass mixed with smaller triangles of orange and purple. But they have been a part of the building since its construction in 1904.
“They give a warmth to this building,” Piotrowicz said, looking up at colorful glass.
As the building aged, Piotrowicz became worried the windows wouldn’t last until their 110th birthday next year. Tom Gloudemans, a craftsman based in Hancock, restored one window in desperate condition, but the other windows needed expensive repairs, too.
“We were afraid we would come in one morning and find the stained glass on the floor,” Piotrowicz said.
Each window could cost between $900 and $1,100 to restore, Piotrowicz said, so the grant approved yesterday could be spent on nine or 10 of those windows most in need of repair. Some of the windows are fixed in place, but four of the 17 can be opened to let air into the building.
“Once they’re repaired, we’ll be able to open them again and use them to circulate (air),” she said. “Not only will this repair have the preservation effect, but it will help us use the building as it was designed.”
To apply for one of the grants funded by the state’s conservation license plates, the library at least needed to be eligible for New Hampshire’s Register of Historic Places. So Piotrowicz dug through the building’s records and the town’s history books, working for more than nine months to assemble the story of the Tucker Free Library, and then applied for $10,000 from the state.
Now Piotrowicz knows every crack in the windows, every buckle in the glass. She also knows the white tin tiles on the ceiling and the names of the long-dead Henniker residents who made the town’s plans for a library happen a century ago. And she speaks about them with passion, spilling over with stories about the people who walked in the windows’ pale-green rays years ago.
“When you’re actually sitting down to write the history, there’s so much greater appreciation for this fabulous building and this community,” she said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)