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An Unabridged Asset

May 1, 2005

With libraries in many parts of the country curtailing hours and closing branches, what a joy to see a neighborhood branch in Hartford expand. After a little more than a year of work, the Goodwin Memorial Branch of Hartford Public Library at 460 New Britain Ave. is entering the final stages of a $2.3 million renovation and will reopen soon.

Following the lead of the main library, the Goodwin outpost is retooling itself to stay useful to an increasingly diverse clientele. In this case, more is more. More books, more computers, a more updated mechanical system, more homework help, more activities for families and more space for community meetings. And, of course, more parking spaces. While the larger parking lot has displaced some green space, it seems a necessary evil.

Despite the large, somewhat boxy addition to the east, the building's front rightly remains the visual focal point: the formal Greek Revival pediment has been sanded and restored, and the arched Palladian window above the door is as graceful as ever. The original strip of grey cement with the branch's name engraved in it girdles the façade, offering a nice horizontal counterpoint to the arches and triangles.

Finally, despite an additional 4,500 square feet, the branch still feels intimate, a tribute to the architects, Fletcher, Harkness Cohen & Moneyhun of Cambridge and Sevigny Architects LLC of Hartford. The building hunkers down nicely at the foot of Coolidge Street, remaining, in this residential section of town, the best kind of neighbor: helpful, smart and unobtrusive.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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