A project that some thought was dead in the water and gained new life and taken wing.
Friends and public officials gathered at the Oxford Free Library on Friday to celebrate the ceremonial groundbreaking for its expansion and renovation.
Just last year, the board of trustees scuttled a $2.5 million plan to renovate Chester County’s oldest library when it appeared the funds were just not there.
Trustee Karen Hovis said there were some people who advocated abandoning the project completely, “but several of us said, ‘We’re not going to give up.’”
The planners had to cut back on their dreams, she added. There would be no “green” roof or rain water collection system. But a large community room will be added, the children’s library will be moved upstairs, more computers and computer space will be built and more spaces will be added to the parking lot.
The renovation is now budgeted at $1.33 million. They have already collected $780,000 and are seeking an additional $550,000, Hovis said.
She said if all goes well, the project will be finished in six months — that’s if a severe winter doesn’t slow progress.
Library trustee Jamie Cole was the master of ceremonies and told a group of about 40 guests, “We are striving for the Oxford Library to be the core of the community.”
Jeff Nowland of the contracting firm Nowland Associates Inc. said he feels a strong attachment to the Oxford community. He added he is looking forward to getting started with the building process. “We have some cold weather to beat,” he said.
Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry made reference to the library’s history, saying its origins went back to 1784, with various of its pods located around town.
Before he sank the ceremonial shovel into land that had already received the backhoe’s initial digs, Board of Trustees President Frank Spor expressed relief that the moment had finally come for the start of the project after 10 years of discussion and planning.
He said the Oxford Library Company was officially incorporated in 1868 with shareholders contributing $5 each. In all there were 65 initial donors with the last one making her contribution in 1914. He said he hopes to have some kind of plaque or area honoring those people.
After the ceremony, refreshments were served inside, and visitors were invited to look at sketches of the future building.