For 87 years, the North Monmouth Library operated on Main Street — a bright yellow box of a building that drew in children like Shelia Sanford with its promise of newspapers and comics.
“When I was a little girl, I used to go to the library,” Sanford, now 75, said in January. “It was a central place in those days. Everybody went to the library.”
When Sanford said that earlier this year, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission was considering placing the North Monmouth Library on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now, it has done so, according to Kirk Mohney, the commission’s director.
“This designation indicates that the property has been documented, evaluated, and considered worthy of preservation and protection as part of the nation’s cultural heritage,” Mohney wrote in a news release.
The North Monmouth Library was designed by Harry Cochrane, the artist and architect whose most notable local creation is Cumston Hall in downtown Monmouth — which currently houses the Cumston Public Library. After the library closed to the public in 2014, it came under the care of the Monmouth Museum and has also received a new roof and a paint job that recalls its original coloring.
Sanford, who is president of Monmouth Museum and also was involved with the North Monmouth Library, has said that she was excited about the prospect of Cochrane’s smaller creation receiving the federal distinction.
“We would like to have it recognized,” Sanford said. “It would be a nice honor. It would be an honor for the library. It would be recognition for the museum, and it would be recognition for Harry Cochrane. He’s a big deal in Monmouth.”
The library was built between 1926 and 1927 on land donated by the Winthrop Mill Company, according to Mohney.
“The library retains its Palladian windows, portico, interior finishes and design,” he said in the news release. “The building retains a high degree of integrity of materials, workmanship, design, setting, location, association and feeling. The library is significant at the local level with a period of significance from 1927 to 1967, the year of construction to 50 years from the present.”
Besides the prestige that comes from landing on the National Register of Historic Places, there are benefits for properties on the list.
Any projects that affect the properties are subject to input from the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Owners of the properties can receive tax provisions. The properties could qualify more easily for federal grants for historic preservation, and their historical importance could affect whether coal mining permits are issued in the area.
None of those benefits would apply necessarily to the North Monmouth Library, according to Sanford. Still, she said, “we don’t know in 200 years what might be happening.”
Though the library is not being used, Sanford said the museum will begin storing reference and history books there in the spring. The museum also might display items there from time to time.
The 225th anniversary of Monmouth’s incorporation is this year, Sanford said, and the museum might hold some sort of ceremony to celebrate local history.
“Hopefully we’ll also be able to celebrate that the library is on the National Register of Historic Places,” she said.