CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The History Branch of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library has a new look and a new name at the end of a three-year renovation program.
Last week, library officials and more than 40 community stakeholders gathered for the building's official re-dedication as the Johnston Tucker Center, in recognition of the families who have long supported the library.
"If you want a great library, you must have community support," John Hagler, chairman of the library board, said during the event May 21. "We've had that right from the very beginning."
Library officials estimated about $800,000 in donations from the Tucker Foundation, the George R. Johnston Family Foundation and several individuals, combined, have gone into the overhaul.
The Ocoee Street facility, also known as the landmark Craigmiles House, served as the city's library from 1923-1987. The building became an archival site when the main library campus resettled across the street. It houses local genealogical and historical collections, including Civil War military documents, court records and various manuscripts.
Andrew Hunt, who has served as the library director since 1994, said the day "marked the completion and celebration of a longtime personal hope and dream that a proper renovation would become a reality."
"I love the wonderful Italianate architecture and the beautiful woodwork and the other details that makes this house so special," he said.
Hunt praised the donation of Summerfield Johnston, who donated money for renovations and air conditioning for the building in the 1990s, but said he was "quite aware" more work was needed.
The project called for sealing brick mortar, replacing rotten wood and installing an ADA-compliant concrete ramp as part of the exterior first phase back in 2015. Interior work centered on replacing damaged plaster on the second floor, given to the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation as part of the makeover plan.
"They poured their hearts into it," Erin Fennell, office manager for the foundation, said about workers who revitalized the second floor. "It was rough. They hauled out at least 75 buckets of old plaster."
Hunt said he "could not think of a better organization to occupy the second floor."
History Branch Manager Margot Still showed patrons around the archival and genealogical research rooms, located on the first floor. Researchers now have new digital imaging equipment and improved lighting thanks to the renovation program.
"I have the best office in the world," Still said.
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