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Flower Memorial Library entrance opened after two years

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WATERTOWN — Visitors to the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, after more than two years, can once again walk up the marble walkway, past the working marble fountains and the lion sculptures, and enter into the library’s iconic rotunda.

The entrance reopening follows the completion of a rehabilitation of the library’s exterior.

“It looks so beautiful. All the marble has all been cleaned up and the fountains are working again,” said reference librarian Yvonne F. Reff. “People are so used to not using it, just want to tell everyone come in and use it, again.”

Executive Library Director Margaret J. Waggoner said there was no celebration, no balloons, or really any formal recognition to the opening on Tuesday afternoon.

“A maintenance man came over and told me the doorway was good to go,” Mrs. Waggoner said.

With that, the yellow tape that had blocked the door and the chain blocking the marble walkway were removed.

Andrew T. Nichols, a planner in the City Planning Office, said the total rehabilitation cost has not yet been calculated as they wait for several contractors to submit their bills. As of Wednesday, the total project was estimated to cost $310,000.

“There aren’t many cities that have such a unique resource like we have for a public library,” Mr. Nichols said.

Mr. Nichols said the building, a gift from Emma Flower to the city, is an important responsibility that “the City Council felt it was worth taking care of.”

Mrs. Reff said the front door was closed more than two years ago. The City Code Enforcement Office closed off the front entrance as a precaution after noticing the 3½-inch-thick marble soffit panels were “bowing out.”

The rehabilitation project at the library included restoring the two historic bowl-shaped fountains in the front yard, the marble steps leading into the building, two marble lions at the top of the stairs and the building’s cracked facade.

“What started as a few small projects ended up being one big one,” Mrs. Reff said.

Mr. Nichols said though the panels had posed the biggest safety threat, restoring the fountains was the biggest undertaking of the restoration project.

He said the mixture of a small space on the library lawn to work and the fact the contractors found old pipes and other complications under the library’s marble walkway proved to be a challenging task.

“The fountains were the bulk of the work,” Mr. Nichols said.

Mrs. Reff said the library entrance is always closed during the winter months because the marble is very slippery.

Library board President Stephen W. Gebo said there are many things to celebrate at the library — the opening of the front entrance, the fountains working again and the new hire of Mrs. Waggoner.

He said the board of trustees has been talking informally about holding an all-encompassing celebration but nothing official has been decided.

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