Preservationists show heart for Naperville's old Nichols Library

Members of a preservation group in Naperville want to make their love of the city's original library known, even as some parts of it are dismantled.

Save Old Nichols members united Saturday in front of the old Nichols Library at 110 S. Washington St. to tie ribbons in the shape of a heart into the construction fencing securing the site.

The move wasn't meant as a protest, said Becky Simon, president of Save Old Nichols.

"We just want to show how much we love old Nichols Library and how much it means to us," Simon said about the 120-year-old Richardsonian Romanesque building, which was constructed using a $10,000 donation from early Naperville businessman, author and teacher James Lawrence Nichols. "We love our hometown and we love old Nichols Library."

Nichols, who overcame a difficult childhood as a homeless, illiterate orphan, "left a legacy in stone for Naperville," Simon said as she wove red ribbon through fencing.

The creation of an artistic display of affection came about two weeks after partial demolition of the structure began. The city's historic preservation commission approved the work, which involves tearing down the 1962 south wing and removing the original eastern wall.

Building owners Dwight Avram and Jeff Brown say they are undertaking the partial demolition to allow more room on the property for construction of a mixed-use development.

Brown said they expect contractors to complete asbestos removal and environmental remediation within the next couple of weeks, so partial demolition can start.

But Save Old Nichols members, who worked to get local landmark status for the old library granted last September, say they aren't through hoping the back of the original building can be retained in place.

"It's structurally important and it needs to be saved," Simon said.

They also hope for "adaptive reuse" of the building through a new tenant who will make the most of its historical features. Simon said Save Old Nichols is reaching out to potential buyers and has sent the current owners some tips from the National Park Service on how to protect old buildings while they are temporarily not in use.

The tips include exterminating pests, protecting the exterior from moisture, securing the building to prevent vandalism, providing adequate ventilation inside, securing utilities and mechanical systems, and creating a maintenance and monitoring plan.

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  Gail Diedrichsen of Naperville was one of about a dozen members of the Save Old Nichols group who decorated the construction fencing around the downtown Naperville property with a heart made of ribbons how much it means to them. Daniel White/
  Reid Brown of Naperville weaves ribbon through fencing to help the Save Old Nichols group keep the back of the original library building from being demolished along with the 1962 south wing. Daniel White/
  Bill Simon, left, of Naperville helped the Save Old Nichols group decorate the construction fencing around the property with a heart made of ribbons so passers-by know that, even as the former Naperville library is being demolished, there are those in town who love it. Daniel White/
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