Construction crews descended on Bowdoin Street in Winthrop on Thursday to tear down the old Masonic hall to make way for expansion of the public library next door.

McGee Construction began demolishing the building in the morning. The hall was flattened within a few hours. The debris will be trucked away and a fence erected around the hall’s foundation over the next few days.

“I hated to see them tear it down,” said Bob Doyle, of Winthrop, who briefly used his bucket truck to help the construction crew. Doyle, a Mason, said the last meeting at the hall took place about four years ago. The building, which once served as a schoolhouse, has since fallen into disrepair. A roof beam recently fell and broke through the ceiling.

“There’s a lot of fellas who went through the Masonic hall there,” Doyle said.

Judi Stebbins, chairwoman of the C.M. Bailey Public Library fundraising committee, said she shared some of Doyle’s regret at seeing the building torn down. Stebbins said the obvious state of disrepair and the fact that the space will be used for a needed expansion of the town’s library help to mitigate that regret.

“I can’t think of a better use,” she said.

The Masonic hall was torn down to expand the library, which was designed by Maine architect John Calvin Stevens and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Masonic building has been empty for some time. Reusable materials, including woodwork and doorknobs, have been stored so they can be incorporated into the addition. The one-story addition, which will be built on the Masonic Hall property, will be home to adult services and children’s libraries.

The project is expected to go out to bid this summer in time for construction to begin in early September. The plan is to open the new wing by next spring.

The fundraising committee, which has raised $732,000 over the past two years, needs another $268,000 to reach its goal of $1 million. Stebbins said the committee expects to receive additional grant money.

The committee plans to kick off the public fundraising phase during a ceremony scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 15 at the library. Dale Glidden, chairman of the steering committee, said tearing down the Masonic hall will help generate momentum going into that event.

“People will realize the building is a reality,” Glidden said.

The committee originally had intended to raise $1.3 million to build a two-story building with a daylight basement that was unfinished, Stebbins said. That plan doubled the usable space of the existing library. Plans have since been modified to build a one-story building with a finished daylight basement. The plan will cut construction and heating costs without giving up room.

“We’re still able to double the functional space,” Stebbins said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642ccrosby@centralmaine.comTwitter: @CraigCrosby4