- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007


A major repair project is under way at the Georgetown public library, where a fire last month nearly destroyed an archive of historical documents from the city’s oldest neighborhood.

Contractors are hoping to save the 72-year-old library, along with its valuable documents and artwork. The building, in the 3200 block R Street Northwest, was seriously damaged in the April 30 fire.

Minkoff Co., based in Bethesda, is clearing the debris, stabilizing the building and installing a temporary roof. The company is also working to protect the original woodwork.

Soon after the fire was extinguished, Belfor Property Restoration, a unit of Michigan-based Belfor USA Group Inc., had workers collect dozens of boxes of materials from the library. Many of the materials have been moved to a vacuum chamber in Fort Worth, Texas, where they will be dried.

Belfor officials do not think the wet books and materials recovered from the library’s Peabody Room, which held many historical documents, will develop mold, according to a statement from the D.C. library system.

Last week, the D.C. Council provided $6.5 million in funds so work could begin immediately to rebuild the library and Eastern Market, which was destroyed by fire the same day. Plans call for another, much larger allocation of $33 million.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, praised council members “for dedicating funds for the reconstruction of Eastern Market and Georgetown Public Library, a proposal I thought was critically necessary for the District and the communities affected by fires.”

After the installation of a temporary roof, contractors planned to dry the building’s interior. Only after the moisture has disappeared can the library “estimate permanent damage to the building and determine what it will take to restore it,” according to the library system.

The library plans to operate a bookmobile at the Jelleff Boys & Girls Club’s parking lot, a block away from the Georgetown library.

Fire officials have said that the library fire probably was started by a mechanical heating device.

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