SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The grand front entrance to the Peace Dale Library, a portal into the historic building, is open to visitors again for the first time in almost a generation.
All it took was a relatively small sum – a $7,000 grant donation from the Champlin Foundation – and some work to spruce up the large wood double front doors by replacing their handles and making other minor repairs, Library Director Laurel Clark said.
The doors swung open again on July 8.
They had been closed ever since a renovation in 1990, Clark said.
“There was a big restoration in 1990 and they put in a big handicapped access door, and once that was in place they closed the front doors,” Clark said.
Clark said the town library, which is governed by a board of trustees, made the decision to re-open the entrance in order to provide greater accessibility to the library, especially from the Kingstown Road front side.
“The parking lot near the side entrance can get very tight,” Clark said. “There is parking on the street in the front, and we thought that maybe if the doors were working, people could park on the street in the front and walk up. Plus, they’re just beautiful doors.”
The library, dedicated in 1891, relies on grant funds for many of its upgrades, such as a recent replacement of tables and chairs inside, Clark said.
The front entrance offers a welcoming lighted alcove area that provides shade and protection from the elements.
The main entrance with its curved granite steps was built in 1890, a century before the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which mandates handicapped access in public spaces. The side entrance next to the parking lot remains open and is handicapped-accessible. A cement sidewalk leads from he parking lot around to the front entrance as well.
A display case inside the library that had been placed in front of the double doors in the main hallway was moved, as a clear path is needed for the doorway.
The large stone building, formerly called Hazard Memorial Hall, was built in 1890 and dedicated in 1891 to the late local industrialist Rowland G. Hazard by his sons. In the mid-1800s, Hazard also was instrumental in founding what was then called the Narragansett Library.
“The first and most important use of the building is to furnish a well-appointed home for the Narragansett Library,” his son, Rowland Hazard, is reported to have said in his 1891 dedication speech.