May 5, 2001

It is still about two years and $1 million away from completion, but public officials and involved civic leaders say the long-talked-about Northern Regional Library in Talley-Day Park is, at long last, just a matter of a contractor putting metal to earth away from happening.

"It has shifted from uncertainty to certainty," Anne Hampton, of the New Castle County Department of Community Services, told attenders at a groundbreaking ceremony on May 4 launching the largest and most significant public works project ever undertaken in Brandywine Hundred.

Hampton was director of county libraries in the late 1980s when a consultant recommended that the system be restructured around large facilities in the northern and southern sections of the county with several satellites. As plans

developed, the focus shifted to having just one master library -- at least for the foreseeable future.

County Councilman Robert Weiner told the group that his involvement went back even further -- to 1985 when, he said, he and the late Philip Cloutier talked about a replacement for the outmoded and outgrown one on Concord Pike at Talleyville when both were active in the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred. County Executive Thomas Gordon was president of the council at the time.

The library will be the keystone of what will be known as the Cloutier Complex in Talley-Day Park.

State Senator Cathy Cloutier, his widow who succeeded to his state House of Representatives seat before being elected last year to the Senate, said that "one of Phil's favorite things to do was to read" and the library was "one of our cherished dreams."

None of that is to say that the road to the groundbreaking was exactly a speedway.

"I have wondered many times when, where and even if," said James Conrad, chairman of the Friends of Concord Pike Library fund-raising committee and another long-time advocate.

Conrad revealed that the committee has quietly raised "slightly more than $1.5 million" from foundations and corporations. In addition, the Longwood Foundation has pledged $500,000 once the public subscription campaign brings the total to $2.5 million. That will complete the private-donation portion of financing the $10 million project. The state and county have already committed the rest.

A cadre of public and civic leaders (above) await their cue to start spading at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new library in Talley-Day Park. Below is an architect's rendition of what the building will look like. Architect for the project is the Hillier Group; Wohlsen Construction Co. is the contractor on the job.

Conrad said a 'door-to-door solicitation' throughout Brandywine Hundred will begin immediately.

All that is pointed toward having the library open for business some time in 2003.

Gordon promised that that deadline will be met and said that, when completed, the 40,000-square-foot facility "will be anything but just another library."

He described combining the library with a park offering both active and passive activities as an unusual, if not unique, arrangement. He called it "a recreational center for the mind as well as the body." County Council President Chris Coons referred to it as "a repository of culture and learning" for the community.

Athletic fields and other amenities in Talley-Day park are to be expanded as the building of the library begins. That phase of the work is scheduled to be completed, or nearly so, by the end of 2001. Longer-range, there are plans to incorporate the property known as the Streed Farm, which extends the park to from off Foulk Road to Wilson Road, into the complex. Weiner said one possibility in that regard is to make it an historic interpretation attraction, based on Brandywine Hundred's farming heritage.

Alan Levin, president of Happy Harry's Inc., the discount drugstore chain, said his role as honorary chairman of the fund-raising committee provides a more immediate link with the past. The first public county-operated lending library in Brandywine Hundred, he noted, was in the back of a pharmacy -- Tigue's Drugs on Concord Pike.

2001. All rights reserved.

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