Whittemore celebrates rotunda restoration

Whittemore Memorial Library Director Jocelyn Miller, left, looks over pictures documenting the rotunda restoration project with Spencer Parrish during a reception Sunday at the library to celebrate the completion of the project. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Whittemore Memorial Library Director Jocelyn Miller, left, looks over pictures documenting the rotunda restoration project with Spencer Parrish during a reception Sunday at the library to celebrate the completion of the project. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI


NAUGATUCK — The Whittemore Memorial Library rotunda gleamed with the sunshine that poured through the laylight Sunday afternoon — a fitting backdrop for the day’s celebration.

The Friends of the Whittemore Library sponsored a reception at the library to mark the completion of the rotunda restoration project.

“It’s a relief,” said Library Director Jocelyn Miller about the project being completed as she mingled with guests.

The main reason for the project was to stop water from leaking into the rotunda, Mille said. Restoring the rotunda to its original state from 118 years ago was an added bonus, she said.

The reception culminated about four and half years of fundraising for the project and roughly a year’s worth of work to restore it.

The restoration cost about $382,000. The work was done by Crocker Architectural, of North Oxford, Mass. The library received about $161,000 from the Connecticut Community Foundation’s Salem Foundation, which was founded by a son of John Howard Whittemore, the philanthropist who commissioned the library in the late 1800s.

“We are so happy that we can be part of this,” said Ann Merriam Feinberg, vice president of the Connecticut Community Foundation.

The library also received a $103,000 grant from the Connecticut State Library for the project. The remaining funds were donated by local banks and companies and about $4,000 was raised from anonymous donations from library patrons, Miller said.

Miller credited former library director Joan Lamb with getting the project started and securing about 75 percent of the funds needed for the restoration.

Crocker Architectural began its work to restore the rotunda’s dome and the laylight last spring. The company completely refurbished the dome, its copper adornments — some of which had turn green over the years due to oxidization — and the stained glass that comprises the laylight.

Miller said 118 years worth of dirt was cleaned off of the laylight along with many coats of sealant used in an effort to prevent water from leaking into the rotunda.

Sun shines through the laylight of the rotunda at the Whittemore Memorial Library in Naugatuck Sunday afternoon. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Sun shines through the laylight of the rotunda at the Whittemore Memorial Library in Naugatuck Sunday afternoon. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI


Miller said the impact on the library of the newly refurbished rotunda is wonderful. On a sunny day the sun shines so bright in the library the staff doesn’t have to turn the lights on, she said.

The project also included renovations to the bathroom and elevator vestibule in the rotunda to make it more handicap accessible, Miller said. She said some of the areas where paint is peeling inside the rotunda will now be touched up and the library is turning its attention to fixing the windows inside the library that are leaking.

Among the crowd mingling during the reception were descendants of John Howard Whittemore. Andy Starbuck, who spoke on behalf of the family members in attendance, took a moment to thank everyone who has contributed to the Salem Foundation as well as everyone who played a role in the restoration project.

Starbuck said libraries continue to have a great impact on communities in a world where technology is ever increasing.

“It’s gratifying to see the Naugatuck library is committed to preserving this historic space, while staying current with the times, increasing its number of programs, patrons and circulation,” Starbuck said.