MONTVILLE, NJ – With the Montville Twp. Public Library celebrating its 25th anniversary in its current building on Horseneck Road, TAPinto Montville thought it would be fun to take a look back at the library’s past.

Did you know that the Horseneck Road address is actually the 7th building the library has occupied? According to library documents, the first library was opened in 1921 in Towaco in the Lester Jacobus post office, then it moved to the Waughaw Road School, then to the sun porch of the Augustus Adams house, and it finally landed in a small white building that it shared with the Building and Loan Company. In 1930, the fee to borrow books was $5 per year and that year the library lent 8,300 books despite only being open two days per week.

Then it moved a short hop in Towaco to a building near a now-defunct pencil factory, near the corner of Main Road and Waughaw. The dirt road next to the library led to the Towaco pool – another landmark that is now gone.

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From there, the library was moved in 1963 to what is now the Senior House, next to the police station on Main Road/Route 202 in Montville. Before it was the library, the Senior House was the municipal building, the jail, and a two-room school house (the Linwood School).

Carrie Hart recalled the building next the police station and said, “I worked there for years. There was nothing creepier than when you had to go in the basement to get something. With the jail cell, it was like a scene from a horror movie!”

Lisa McCann also remembers it well: “I remember the creaky wooden floors and the papery smell in there. My mother took me there often for books.”

That library was an “association library,” current library director Allan Kleimann told TAPinto Montville, or a private library. The library in the Senior House outgrew its site and had to add two trailers in 1976 in the parking lot to add to its square footage, but the library board knew that the situation couldn’t go on. A referendum was passed by voters to make the library a public library and the process began in 1989 to fund and build a better, more permanent building, Kleimann said.

But where to site the building? Different areas were considered, such as the land behind Barry’s Pharmacy, but after then-library board president Ray Mariash presented to the board of education regarding land it owned next to the high school and the benefits of having the library there –  near the middle school – the board donated the land, Mariash said.

“That was the logical place,” then-mayor Robert “Doc” Purnell said.

A consultant was hired to determine the size and amenities of the new facility, Mariash said, to accommodate the growing township and help set a budget. From there, it was time to find an architect.

Architect Eliot Goldstein remembers working on the building with his father, and asking the board what the favorite building in town was.

“They told us it was the [former] community center behind the high school, which was a barn,” Goldstein said. “So we decided to build a ‘barn for books’ – a building that references the town but could act as a high tech library.”

Goldstein worked with his father to build an energy-efficient building that allowed a lot of light in, had a lot of insulation – “even the windows have insulation between the panes” – and when the cost of wood skyrocketed, the team altered the plans to reduce the amount of wood by 35 tons, shaving $100,000 from the budget, according to ENR magazine.

The resulting building has won awards for Goldstein, resulted in a book (Timber Construction for Architects and Builders), and many magazine articles.

The building opened with fanfare on March 5, 1995. The board expected about 100 people to attend the reception, Mariash said, and the McDonald’s in Pine Brook offered to cater the food. Instead, 1,000 people came to see the 17,000 square foot structure with soaring ceilings and barn-like trusses.

25th Anniversary

The library celebrated its 25th anniversary with a reception on Saturday, March 7, 2020 with face painting, balloon art and a craft for the kids, classical cellist Randy Calistri-Yeh, pretzels shaped like the numbers “25,” and cake.

In part two, we’ll look at how the library has grown.

Fun fact #1: If you look at the tile motif in the restrooms in the library, it is the floor plan of the library.

Fun fact #2: The Goldstein Partnership was also the architectural team for the Towaco Fire Station.

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