If you have not yet visited Powers Library in Moravia, put us on your to-do list this month, because you are in for a treat.
At 29 Church St., the original facade of our 1880 building still beckons visitors with its old stone steps, high curved doors, period glass windows and engraved Latin inscription: Esto perpetua (May it last forever). A more recent English sign saves you the stair-climb and directs you to our new entrance just around the corner. Suddenly what had looked like a quaint toy-size historic building blooms forth in architectural splendor, as a spacious new addition greets your eye. Enter this new wing and experience for yourself the outstanding design features that earned Powers Library a prestigious award from the Historic Preservation League of New York State in 2005.
Meticulous attention to preserving the mood of the interior of the original building has resulted in an addition of gracious proportions - mellow and distinctive wooden paneling and trimwork, and a color palette that seems to shift from historic to modern tones with the sun's movement over the walls. Browse the gleaming bookcases, rest in an upholstered windowseat and enjoy the natural light from our wall of wood-framed and multi-paned windows.
But this is a historic building after all, and its crown jewel remains the interior of the original section, restored now to 19th century glory. A few short steps up, a pause at the framed original plan of Fillmore Glen State Park and through a doorway leads a visitor into the past.
Here, in the original library founded by Dr. Cyrus Powers, the walls are flanked with original wooden bookcases, hand-tooled, ornate, mellowed and softened with age, that soar to great heights. The visitor crosses the original parquet floor, stepping from deep brown wood to a golden buttery hue in a restored and now gleaming pattern of inlay. The tall windows, like eyes to the past, draw one to their wavy glass panels.
One is almost compelled to fall silent upon entering the historic room. What is it about a beautiful and old room that arrests our senses and engages our mind? We say, “They don't build 'em like they used to.” And we decide it must be a question of cost. But can that be all there is to it?
We must give credit to persons of vision, whether 200 years ago or today. When the original fathers of the little village of Moravia determined it was worth it to build a library that “would last forever,” they knew this endeavor would take courage and grit to see it through. Whatever the driving force behind the building of what has become the oldest continuously occupied Free Association Library in New York state, we are the lucky descendants who continue to enjoy its magic today. More lucky, indeed, in that the same vision and sense of duty that motivated Dr. Cyrus Powers and his associates to break ground in 1880, spurred the modern Library Board of Trustees to undertake the magnificent expansion and renovation, completed three years ago.
In the Powers Library of today, we have a little library that could … and that did!
Leslie Boba Joshi is director of Powers Library in Moravia. She moved from Seattle, Wash. just one year ago