AMESBURY — The 15 lions on the front doors of Amesbury Public Library are about to receive a facelift.
The library was designed and built in 1900 by Lynn architect Penn Varney, who had intricate details — including rosettes and a pride of lions — carved into its honey-stained front doors.
“There are two lions on the doors themselves and then they are surrounded by lions as well,” library archivist Meghan Petersen said. “It’s a little bit unclear as to why, exactly, lions are affiliated with libraries. But they are certainly symbols of guardianship.”
The building opened in 1902 and its doors have become well known for their big cats, according to Petersen.
“The lions we have actually preceded the installation of the lions at the New York Public Library,” she said. “The public really wanted this building to be something grand, something beautiful and something that would be pleasing to look at. They really felt like that was important for all members of the community to have something that inspired excitement.”
The library’s board of trustees formed a committee to address preservation and conservation issues inside and outside the 119-year-old building.
Since the front doors have not had any maintenance performed on them in 20 years, the library preservation committee received roughly $20,000 from the trustees and the Perley A. and Mary Sanborn Trust to get them spruced up.
Freddy Roman Maker & Restorer of Furniture has been selected by the committee to perform the complicated work of cleaning, repairing and conserving the doors
“We have been very diligent about selecting our conservator,” Petersen said. “He has a reputation for doing conservation work that is very careful. His approach is not to do anything to the doors that can’t be undone. He will only be adding things here and there that are absolutely necessary to maintain the health of the doors and to ensure that they are able to function.”
The library doors will need to be removed during restoration, which will take place in controlled conditions off site; temporary doors will be installed over the summer.
“We are hoping that the doors come down within the next couple of weeks,” Petersen said. “Then, work will begin on the exterior to set up the scaffolding. At that point, the front doors won’t be available for people to open.”
After the front doors are removed, patrons should use the library’s rear ramp, Petersen said.
“The library really is one of the most attractive buildings in town,” she said. “It is unique in its style. It is a Romanesque building, which is not a style that you see anywhere else in the downtown, certainly.”
Peterson added that the project is part of the library’s long-range preservation plan, which also covers the library’s local history collection.
More information about the collection can be found at www.amesburylibrary.org/resources/local-information.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.