SOARING CEILING RESTORED AT CENTURY OLD STENSON CHILDREN'S LIBRARY
February 9, 2015 -- A welcome surprise greeted Sea Cliff Village officials and architecture aficionados this past December as the contractors renovating the Stenson Library dismantled the dropped ceiling and revealed the original coved ceiling of the century old structure. "We had to do something with this," Mayor Bruce Kennedy said "We were presented with an opportunity to restore this building to its original beauty." The ceiling, curved as it reaches its peak, adds an additional three feet of height to the room making for a significantly more lofty and open space. .
With the initial concept calling for simply replacing the dropped ceiling and installing HVAC duct work in the cavity above, the Mayor said that the discovery called for a change of plans, that unfortunately, with the necessary reworking of the ducts and the re-plastering and painting of the ceiling, would now put the project over budget.
It was then that the Sea Cliff-based Gottlieb Foundation stepped in and offered to help with the additional expense and to restore the room more closely to its original grandeur.
Leslie Guerci, President of the Landmarks Preservation Committee, has been very much involved in the restoration work acting as interior designer, choosing materials and other design elements such as fixtures and paint colors.
She explained to Northwordnews that the single story neo-classical structure which was opened to the public in May 1915 was built on land donated to the Village by Mrs. Mary Stenson and was named in honor of her husband. The original design included a four-sided skylight that, because of leaks, was closed off during a 1961 renovation. The framing for the skylight still exists, Ms. Guerci explained, but the cost of restoring it and accommodating the duct work for the HVAC system made that particular renovation unworkable.
Although absent that original feature, Ms. Guerci explained that the beauty of the ceiling will be accented with new light fixtures reflecting early 20th century neo-classical style, instead of the originally planned recessed lighting, and that LED fixtures will be aimed upward to highlight the coving. Period appropriate colors will be applied to both the walls and the ceiling that, along with the new lighting, will give the library more of a "residential feel," she said. The original book cases will remain.
The preparatory demolition work not only revealed beauty above, but under foot as well. The original tiled floor in the vestibule, obscured for many years, is now exposed and plans are to refurbish it, said Ms. Guerci. Mayor Kennedy said at Tuesday's Board meeting that the wood flooring in the main area will now likely be restored as well.
The new ceiling and flooring will be complemented by the installation of new more architecturally appropriate windows at the sides of the building (a part of the original renovation plans), that, without air conditioners blocking their lower halves, will provide more natural light.
While the Stenson building will have the look of a bygone era, 21st century upgrades will provide comfort and accessibility to all. Those improvements include upgrading the bathroom so that it is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, adding an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system and converting from oil to gas heat.
Commenting on the renovations, Children's library Director Ann DiPietro said, "Spirits have soared over the years at the Children's Library- now we have a ceiling to match."
The renovations are expected to be completed in March.
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Above - during restoration. Below - newly painted ceiling
Original tiles in the vestibule