BANGOR, Maine — Architect Frank Lloyd Wright used it. So did the ancient Egyptians. The Statue of Liberty is covered in it. And the roof of the Bangor Public Library, one of the most iconic buildings in the city, is made of it: copper, a versatile, aesthetically pleasing substance.
Now that the library’s brand new copper roof has been installed after a $9 million fundraising effort to replace the leaky, drafty old one, library staff pondered over the fall and into the winter about what to do with the old roof.
At $3.33 a pound, copper is a valuable commodity. Selling the old roof for scrap would fetch a good price.
But that wasn’t any fun, thought Roxanne Munksgaard, a local artist who with Amanda Coburn and Anne Reigstad owns Maine Jewelry & Art, located across the street from the library on Harlow Street. What about auctioning off pieces of the roof, in both raw form and as jewelry made by the three artisans?
“We just thought that was a much more interesting and engaging way to keep the roof in the community,” said Munksgaard. “Fortunately, [library executive director] Barbara McDade thought the same thing.”
On Tuesday evening, more than 30 pieces of jewelry and more than 10 individual ornamental pieces of the roof were sold off in both a silent and live auction, with many of the jewelry pieces fetching more than $150 each and several of the large ornaments commanding $300 or more. Funds raised from the auction will benefit the library’s renovation process, the first phase of which — replacing the roof — is nearly complete.
Bangor-based big band Sentimental Journey played an hourlong set of standards in the library’s lecture hall, and the mood was festive — and generous, as at least $2,000 had been raised partway through the live auction, with more bids coming.
Munksgaard said she received many emails and phone calls from Bangor natives from all over the country and from as far away as France inquiring about purchasing or bidding on a piece of jewelry.
“I think people really liked the idea of owning a little piece of Bangor,” said Munksgaard. “These are truly one-of-a-kind pieces of art.”
The copper is more than 100 years old and has been subject to wind and rain the entire time, so soldering or using any heat would ruin it. Munksgaard and her partners had to use different techniques to make the necklaces, bracelets, tie clips and earrings, such as hammering, bending and cold soldering.
Jon Bowen, an Orono resident, had the winning bid of $300 for the round exhaust pipe, which like all the other copper roof pieces features an attractive green patina.
“I studied for my GREs in the library,” said Bowen. “This is the kind of art I like. It’ll look great on display at home.”
Lesa O’Connell, a longtime Bangor resident, has spent many hours in the library over the years and loves libraries in general — she grew up reading and learning in the Skowhegan library. She bid $200 on a “dog ear,” a triangular point affixed to the sides of the old roof.
“I think I’ll put it in the garden,” said O’Connell. “The library is very special to me.”
Most of the smaller pieces fetched between $40 and $100 in the silent auction.
Lisa Frazell, the library’s marketing director, said there was lots of interest in bidding and purchasing pieces of the roof since before the auction even was announced.
“The visual impact of it is just spectacular,” said Frazell. “There’s really quite a lot of it, though it’s incredibly light. You can pick up the biggest pieces we have up for auction with one hand.”
Chris Ruhlin, owner of Herbal Tea & Tobacco in downtown Bangor, said he hoped to successfully bid on a piece of the roof so that he could display it in one of the two Main Street commercial properties he owns. He already purchased some old glass panels from the library, which he plans to install in the ceiling and floor of one of his properties.
“I just like the idea of having something from Bangor up on display,” said Ruhlin. “It’s a part of history.”