WEST HARWICH — The historic Chase Library has undergone some improvements thanks to a $10,000 matching grant provided by Foundation 1772 and Preservation Massachusetts. The grant assisted in funding repair, restoration and painting of the exterior of the 1911 library building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The non-profit, trustee-run public library is also seeking $15,000 in Community Preservation Act funding, which has been recommended for approval by the community preservation committee at the Sept. 28 annual town meeting. Those funds will be used for preservation of the original door and entrance to the library. Together, the two projects will restore the library to its original appearance.
The Chase Library was built in 1911 and is the only single-purpose built library in the town of Harwich. In December of 2014, the National Park Service placed the library on its National Register of Historic Places, making it the third National Register building in Harwich, said Patricia Tworek, president of the library's board of trustees.
The library is the first introduction to historic West Harwich for visitors driving east on Route 28 leaving Dennisport. The town has been working on projects to improve and enhance the historic character of the village.
“The Chase Library is a small, quaint library which has been serving the village of West Harwich and its environs for 115 years. Begun in 1905 by the wives of Caleb Chase and John Nickerson, Salome Chase and Ruth Nickerson grew their library, relocated, wrote bylaws, and incorporated. The Chase Library Association was born in 1907. Subsequently, Dr. Nickerson donated a parcel of land and Caleb Chase provided the funding to build a library,” Tworek wrote in a release announcing the grant. The trustees submitted the grant application in September 2019 after 1772 Foundation and Preservation Massachusetts announced plans to fund historic preservation projects in the commonwealth. The grant program was open to all non-profit organizations. The trustees submitted a one-page letter and were notified in January the library was among 81 applicants and a full application was required to move forward. Preservation Massachusetts reviewed 26 full applications and the library was notified in April it was one of 14 projects that will receive $10,000 in matching funds.
The library continues to exist with the backing of the people of Harwich who favorably support an annual town meeting warrant granting $10,000 toward operating costs. Volunteers conduct fund-raising events to fully meet expenses. Funds for maintenance are generally tight and only the most necessary improvements are made, Tworek said.
The library received a $5,000 bequeathal from a patron several years ago, and those funds were set aside for use on a special project, Tworek said, and provided the match for this project.
The historic preservation matching grant program has allowed the library trustees to contract with Certa Pro of Cape Cod for exterior painting of the library, which was last done in 1997. Tworek said the company came in and did the painting and replaced some shingles and trim over a three-day period.
The CPA project targets the main entryway. The library door has had “umpteen” coats of paint and the book-drop slot that was placed there is pulling the door out of place, Tworek said. The book-drop will be removed and the door and entryway restored to its original condition.
With town meeting approval of the $15,000 from the CPA historic preservation account, the two projects will restore the Chase Library building to its original beauty and character, Tworek added.
“The library is grateful to the 1772 Foundation ans Preservation Massachusetts for this grant which enables Chase Library to preserve the history of the people of Harwich and serve as a welcoming sight to those entering our historic town,” Tworek said. “If we can get our CPA funds then the library will be in great shape.”