HESSVILLE — A neighborhood organization’s mission to restore a Great Depression-era library into a resource center is well on its way thanks to the community’s generosity, said Amy Radolak, president of the Hessville Commerce & Community Creative.

A big contributor to the Hansen Library project in Hessville is Local Roofers 26 union, Radolak said. Apprentices and journeymen from the local union have given up many of their weekends this summer they otherwise could be spending with family, Radolak said.

“It’s overwhelming, the support we’ve received. And it’s so exciting to make this project happen,” she said.

The HC3 nonprofit would likely still be scrambling for the $68,000 — an estimate Radolak received for the roof teardown and installation — if not for the city’s Gaming Commission providing a $25,000 grant and Local Roofers 26 installing the shingles free of charge. About $10,500 in materials was paid for out of HC3 funds.

Brian Bass, training director and apprenticeship coordinator for Roofers Local 26, said he tries to not look at the dollar amount or missed weekends with family but instead how the union is bettering the community.

“I stressed to them it’s more than just your average donation job. It’s for the betterment for the community,” Bass said. “I know it’s a very expensive job, but it’s for the veterans and children in Hammond. I try to keep our guys focused on that too.”

The former Hansen Branch Library in the city's Hessville neighborhood largely has sat vacant for more than a decade. Once complete, the old library branch will feature a veterans museum and 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. 

Radolak said the roof is one of the more expensive aspects to the project. It was so compromised that Korellis Roofing had to tear off the old shingles before the Local Roofers 26 workers could safely install the new roofing, she said.

Gluth Brothers Roofing, Artisan Quality Roofing, Babilla Roofing & Sheet Metal, and Chiattello’s Roofing & Construction have also assisted on the project, she said. PPG Paint is donating the paint for the library.

National Registry bid

HC3 purchased the property last fall from the city for $10, launching the organization’s biggest undertaking to date. Since that time, the nonprofit has sought out several grants, including a $24,000 grant awarded last week for materials from the Home Depot Grant Foundation in partnership with the American Legion Post 232.

Despite the community’s donations, Radolak said there’s much work left to do and every donation counts. 

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Adding to the pressure is making sure the renovations align with the group’s bid to nominate the building — completed in 1931 just as the Great Depression hit Hammond — for the National Registry list. 

Radolak said HC3 recently received word from the National Registry that the building has passed its first technical review.

“But that’s the first step of many,” Radolak said.

It’s one of three Hammond library branches designed by local architect L. Cosby Bernard. 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." 

The shingles being installed by Local Roofers 26 union were selected to replicate the cedar shake weathered-look of the library’s original roof.

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.

Another big undertaking is the steel casement windows — original to the library — that will have to be removed, taken off site and restored by someone who specializes in the work, she said.

HC3 has partnered with Greg Kil, an architect that specializes in historical restoration, and Indiana Landmarks, a statewide historic preservation nonprofit, for assist during the nomination process and restoration.

HC3 Color Run 5k

To raise money for the project, HC3 is holding a Color Run 5K at 9 a.m. Aug. 11 at Morton High School, 6915 Grand Ave., with all proceeds going toward the Old Hansen Library restoration.

Early registration deadline is Monday, July 30, when participants ages 6 to 12 are $15 and 13+ are $25.00. Ages 1 to 5 are free, but still need to register online. 

Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 1, prices go up $5, Radolak said.

Visit hc3hessville.org/colorrun for more information and to register.

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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.