I'm a history nerd. And incidentally, a bibliophile. I'm an aspiring art historian currently working as a bookseller. Put those things together, and the thought of historic building renovation and a new library kind of has me on the tips of my toes. A while back, I wrote a mini love note to our library, but times are changing.
Why is this news to me? My mom, who has been following this for some time, indeed informs me that it has been discussed for some time, and only now seems to be on the road to reality.
Kaukauna, WI is a small city on the Fox River in Northeast Wisconsin that has thrived for the past century-plus as a mill town, producing, most notably, paper. A large paper mill still works in the city, but this historic part, much closer to downtown, is no longer a part of their functioning millopolis. The building was originally constructed in 1872 and called the Eagle Flour Mill, and then later became a paper mill. It's abutted by a bunch of later and less attractive warehouses that the city intends to tear down to make room for public space and much-needed parking space. All told, the proposed project racks up $7.6 million to renovate, but hey. THIS IS AWESOME.
The building sits on an oblong island in Kaukauna, between the Fox River and one of the city's canals. As of now, pedestrian access is super limited and even driving is kind of pain. Not that there's much for non-mill employees to care about back there, but it is kind of scenic along the water.
The Kaukauna Public Library, as it stands, is a historic building in its own right, and has been standing and in use since 1905. It's what's considered a Carnegie library, built with funds supplied by arts grant-giver extraordinaire Andrew Carnegie. But it was added onto in the 1970s and it's beginning to suffer a little from settling. They don't have proper meeting space for community gatherings, and they want to expand their space for computer users. They need to renovate the current building regardless. There is mysteriously little mention of what they intend to do with the current library building, so I'll have to keep tabs on that.
But overall, I think all all of this is fantastic, and I also think that using a preexisting building is wonderful. Kaukauna is in dire need of a little revitalization, and this is definitely a move in the right direction. I'm excited for them to get started and to have a new, interesting, and historic space that the community can really use. Now, if someone could only do something with that ridiculously enormous and hideous vacant lot in the very middle of the north side...