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Harvard Public Library Harvard, Mass.

October 06, 2008 |
Built in 1877, the Old Bromfield schoolhouse in Harvard, Mass., has been transformed into a modern, community-focused library. The project included the design and construction of an 11,500-sf addition that was scaled and detailed to complement the existing building, and connected to it via a new lobby.
Five years ago, the town of Harvard, Mass., which lies about 30 miles west of Boston, faced two problems. First, its iconic public schoolhouse, known as Old Bromfield, which was built in 1877, had become outdated. So, too, had its public library, which had no room to grow on its site. 

New non-fiction collection and reading room.
Existing entry lobby and new conference room
Original science classroom converted into fiction reading room and periodical storage
Second floor gallery space serves as a connector and provides reading and meeting space

Historical context is important in Harvard, which dates to 1732 and was known as the home of Mother Ann Lee’s Shaker Village (1781) and Bronson Alcott’s transcendental living experiment (1843). The school/library problem led to extensive discussions among its 5,741 residents, from which came a solution that would kill two birds with one stone: move the library to Old Bromfield and restore the building to its former glory. 

CBT Architects of Boston was given the responsibility of transforming Old Bromfield into a library, a task that called on the firm to preserve the old schoolhouse’s best features while providing a modern, community-focused structure. This included the design and construction of an 11,500-sf addition that was scaled and detailed to complement the existing building, and connected to it via a new lobby.

CBT restored the Queen Anne-style architectural and ornamental details on the interior and exterior of the original building and carried this treatment over to the new addition. “They did a great job tying it together both in the interior and the exterior,” said Tom Brooks, VP, Restoration Division, Berglund Construction, Chicago, one of the BD+C Restoration Awards judges.

The addition houses reference resources, the main stacks, reading rooms, and study areas. The additional workspace allows the library to develop more youth programming and expand its book groups and inter-library loan program. 

The Building Team repaired and refinished the woodwork of the floors and bookcases throughout the original structure, replicated and augmented original lighting fixtures, and converted classrooms to reading rooms, conference rooms, and other community-focused service areas. The basement was renovated into a climate-controlled genealogy room.

The most dramatic improvement took place in a one-time classroom on the second floor, where acoustical ceiling tile was removed to expose magnificent old wooden trusses. This space was refashioned into Volunteer Hall, a new space for community meetings, performances, presentations, lectures, and cultural events. 

Renovation of Old Bromfield was completed in June 2007, 130 years after its original construction.
—Sam Oches, Editorial Intern


Project Summary
Harvard Public Library

Harvard, Mass.

Building Team

Submitting firm:
CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares (architect/engineer)

Structural engineer: Souza True And Partners

Mechanical engineer: Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering

Construction manager: CTA Construction Co.

General Information

Size: 19,500 sf

Construction cost: $6.4 million

Construction time: November 2005 to June 2007
Overlay Init