Fate of Downtown Library Still Unclear

Two local colleges are considering the downtown library building for potential future classroom and department expansions.

The vacant building at the corner of Greene Street and James Brown Boulevard, where the Augusta Library was once housed, is now for sale and has already attracted the likes of two local colleges. According to Theresa Cole, Executive Director of the Board of Trustees for the Augusta Public Library, both Augusta State University and Paine College have had their respective planning committees look at the property for a possible expansion location.

The present library traces its origins to the founding of the Young Men’s Library Association in 1848. Augusta has had a library since the 1750s, with the first books being brought by Anglican clergyman from England. In the book, “199 Years of the Augusta Library,” it lists that the first 166 volumes sent to the Georgia colony were Bibles, prayer books, religious instruction and ethical treatises. Now, the current collection is housed in a 90,000 square foot building across the street from the now empty previous location.

According to the Augusta Chronicle website, the building was constructed in 1960 as Augusta’s first purpose-built main library; this state-of-the-art building cost $775,000 to construct. The library was designed by Augusta architects H. Lowrey Stulb and William D. Eve of the architectural firm of Eve and Stulb. Comparatively, the new library at the corner of Telfair Street and James Brown Boulevard cost $24 million to construct but fell short of the cost for the much-needed furniture. The new library was built with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money, $2 million from the state, and additional funding from the Library Foundation Board’s capital campaign to raise the $3 million needed for furnishings.

When contacted about the future of the old library building, Cole could only say that it was for sale, but nothing else was known.

“Paine College and Augusta State have looked at the building and talked to the city about purchasing the property,” Fashion said. “Neither of the colleges has made an offer to my knowledge, but the property is definitely up for sale.”

Augusta State University President William A. Bloodworth, Jr., said that Augusta State had looked at the property and was considering it as a future expansion building.

“I have looked at the building along with others from the school,” Bloodworth said. “(Augusta State) would definitely use it if the city gave it to us. Well, if the city gave it to the University System, that is. Rest assured, no offices or departments would be moved off campus if we were to acquire the building though.”

Claude Andrews, Director of the Richmond County Buildings and Grounds Division, said that the old library building is currently being used as a storage facility during the transition of offices from the old judicial building on Greene Street to the new courthouse on Walton Way.

“We haven’t abandoned (the library) in the least,” Andrews said. “We are just storing old desks and boxes in there until we get the new courthouse offices situated. We have not abandoned it though, that’s for sure.”

Earlier this year the library auctioned off furniture from the old location in an online auction. Prices were set high for some of the pieces as collectors had shown interest in advance for the rare furniture from such companies as Herman Miller—but only the lower-priced chairs and desks sold, leaving many shelves and benches left for an unsure future.

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