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HESSVILLE — Don't let the old Hansen library's boarded-up windows fool you — much work is being done inside the Great Depression-era library as project leaders transform the once-dilapidated building into a community resource center and veterans museum. 

Amy Radolak, president of the Hessville Commerce & Community Creative (HC3), said tens-of-thousands-of-dollars have been donated to the cause — either through free labor, supplies or construction and historical expertise — since HC3 purchased the property from the city for $10 nearly two years ago.

The library branch, one of three designed by local architect L. Cosby Bernard, largely sat vacant for more than a decade but is now being turned into a community hub for the Hessville neighborhood. 

The project has hit some snags, including a five-month stall earlier this year due to an interior wall structure being compromised. Now that it's fixed, the neighborhood organization has moved forward with drywall, interior and exterior painting, floor tiling and heating and air unit repairs. The roof was torn down and a new one installed last year, free of charge, by the Local Roofers 26 Union. 

To ensure the building makes it on the National Registry List, Radolak said careful attention must be given to the smallest of details so renovations align with the building's era — even the bathroom tiling will be a mosaic basket-weave pattern, a popular style in the 1930s.

While not ideal, the boarded-up windows are there for a reason, she said. The group is waiting on final approval for a $50,000-grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to restore the steel casement windows, which are original to the 1931 library.

"We want to preserve those windows. If they weren't boarded up, they would be exposed to the weather and be further damaged," Radolak said. 

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Radolak said this has been a massive undertaking — the first of its kind for HC3.

The finished product will be a community center for Hessville, feature a veterans museum and resource center and provide adult workforce development, student tutoring and veterans support services, the latter of which will be offered by the North Township trustee's office. 

Countless unions and organizations have helped Radolak and HC3 in renovating the old library, including Artisan Quality Roofing; Babilla Roofing & Sheet Metal; Chiattello’s Roofing & Construction; PPG Paint; Carpenters Local 599; Home Depot; American Legion Post 232; Collins Heating and Cooling; Acorn Fencing; and the Legacy Foundation. 

Radolak said she would like HC3 to complete the project by year's end. 

"This small, unheard of organization was looking for some pretty big commitments and donations from many companies," Radolak said.

"We are so fortunate that not only the city of Hammond took a chance on us, but so did all these unions and businesses donating tens-of-thousands-of-dollars worth of work to our organization for this building. We are definitely most grateful to all those involved," she added.

Visit hc3hessville.org for more information or to donate. 

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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.