Bangor library unveils new copper roof, prepares to move forward with rest of makeover

Posted April 03, 2014, at 3:35 p.m.
Last modified April 03, 2014, at 6:45 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A century from now, Bangor residents and visitors to the city could very well be looking at the same copper roof unveiled atop the Bangor Public Library on Thursday morning.

Roof Systems of Maine pulled down a pair of large blue tarps, revealing the gleaming new copper dome, the first phase in a $9 million overhaul to the building that opened its doors to the public 101 years ago.

Soldered onto the dome are two pennies. One is from 1911, when planning for a new library began after a tragic fire devastated much of Bangor, including the former library location. The other is from 2014, when the new roof began its service.

The library’s previous roof had lasted as long as the building it protects, but last year, serious leaks caused a section of the roof to partially collapse, threatened large portions of the library’s collections and turned the library’s main staircase into a waterfall. The library responded by covering leaky sections with tarps and launching a fundraising campaign.

Bangor voters agreed to pitch in for one-third of the bill, covering the $3 million cost of a new copper roof. Stephen and Tabitha King agreed to contribute $3 million toward the cost of the library’s modernization and interior renovation efforts, on the condition that the library raise another $3 million on its own.

“We are so excited that this first part of the project is complete,” library Director Barbara McDade said. “We have about $55,000 left to raise to reach our fundraising goal.”

Crews are expected to complete the few remaining sections of roof in the coming weeks and pull down the scaffolding surrounding the library by the end of the month.

Roof Systems of Maine Vice President Lee Corro said that thanks to better workmanship and a thicker gauge of copper sheeting used on this new roof, he expects it to last for well over a century.

In a few months, the gleaming copper will change to a grayish-brown color. Eventually, after about 15 years, depending on climate and moisture level, the copper will turn turquoise green, similar to the color on the roof of the expansion built in the mid-1990s.

“Seeing the copper dome gleam as it did over 100 years ago is something quite magnificent,” McDade said.

Bangor Public Library is preparing to launch the next phase of its renovation in late spring or early summer, according to McDade. It will involve a dramatic remodeling of the building’s interior and a new look for the exterior of the wing that currently houses the children’s section.

McDade said library officials plan to meet this week to discuss how to handle those renovations. He said that the library could temporarily move to another location, move collections around in a rotation to make way for renovations or find some other solution.

The library has announced a competition to promote the new look, encouraging community members to take a “selfie” with the library. Entries may be submitted on Twitter with the hashtag “#BPLSelfies.” Library staff will pick their three favorites and post them to Facebook for a community vote. The winner receives a date-night package, including dinner at Texas Roadhouse and movie tickets.

Lisa Frazell, marketing director for the library, said the hope is that the social media campaign and new roof will prompt more donations to close the remaining $55,000 gap between the library and its fundraising goal.