HESSVILLE — A neighborhood group has acquired the old Hansen Branch Library to restore the Great Depression-era structure and nominate it for the National Register of Historic Places.

The former Hansen Branch Library in the city's Hessville neighborhood largely has sat vacant for more than a decade, according to Hessville Commerce & Community Creative (HC3) and Indiana Landmarks.  

Amy Radolak, president of HC3, the renovation project is by far the organization's biggest undertaking. The city's Redevelopment Department put the structure out for bid last fall and HC3's proposal won — for $10, she said. 

"The city said it wasn't about how much they were getting for it. It was more about how the building would be used," Radolak said.

While structurally sound, Radolak said the Hansen Library, 2823 Martha St., will require extensive work before it can become a resource center.

The purchase was finalized April 24. 

A bid for the National Registry 

HC3 has partnered with Greg Kil, an architect that specializes in historical restoration, and Indiana Landmarks, a statewide historic preservation nonprofit, to ensure the renovations align with the bid to nominate the site for the National Registry list. 

The building — completed in 1931 just as the Great Depression hit Hammond — is one of three Hammond library branches designed by local architect L. Cosby Bernard, according to Brad Miller, director of Indiana Landmarks organization's Northwest office. 

"Luckily, they were able to complete construction of the three branches and they went on to serve the communities for a long time," Miller said. 

According to Indiana Landmarks, architect Bernard employed steep roof angles and multi-paned windows of the Tudor Revival-style for all three libraries, "creating large, well-lit reading rooms with built-in wood shelving for nearly 7,000 books." 

Bernard, who favored the historical English Tudor style, designed several structures in Hammond during this time, including the Hammond Civic Center, the Woodmar Country Club, and several Tudor mansions along Forest Avenue, Miller said. 

'A second chance at life'

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Sixth District City Councilman Scott Rakos said he's excited to see his childhood library put to use. 

As a young boy growing up in Hessville, Rakos said he recalls the architectural style of the Hansen Library branch being unique.

"There was nothing else like it in Hessville that was like that," he said. Later, he learned the same architect designed two other library branches in the city. 

Miller said he and several others with HC3 have toured the library in recent months as part of the planning phase. 

"A common perception that we have to combat as preservationists is when (older buildings) look really bad. Things compound. The peeling paint, broken windows. But here, the building is in great shape and it's in a great position to have a second chance at life," Miller said. 

Project timeline, campaign kick-off

Radolak said HC3 would like to see the project completed within a year ideally, but the willingness of volunteers and and generosity of donors will play a large role in the project timeline, she said. 

On Monday, HC3 kicked off a fundraising campaign to raise $10,000, Radolak said, but the project will likely cost upwards of $80,000. The new roof alone will cost about $20,000, she said. The steel casement windows — original to the library — will have to be removed, taken off site and restored. 

Indiana Landmarks awarded HC3 a $3,500 Efroymson Endangered Places local match grant and a $900 Partners in Preservation program grant, Miller said. The grant funding will go toward a building study and consultant fees associated with HC3's bid for the library to make the National Register of Historic Places. 

Home Depot is donating tools, resources and manpower. PPG Paint, and several local unions, including Roofers Local No. 26 and IBEW Local 697, also are assisting. 

Plans call for the the old library branch to feature a veterans museum. The resource center will provide adult workforce development, student tutoring and veterans support services, the latter of which will be offered by the North Township Trustee's Office, she said. 

For more information, visit HC3's website at www.hc3hessville.org 

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.