Ah, what to do with the old, original Nichols Library building in Naperville. My heart says one thing, and my head says something totally different. Most folks seem firmly set in one camp or the other, while I have vacillated back and forth (or is it forth and back?). Not knowing which way to go for sure on ‘posting night’ I decided to go with ‘landmarking it’ from the heart point-of-view in this posting, and following it up this weekend with the opposing point- of-view from the head.
The building is almost 120 years old, and it’s still a beautiful building from the outside. The old saying that ‘they don’t build them like this anymore’ qualifies for this building. If the building is taken down, or altered in such a way to lose it’s character, then a piece of Naperville history is gone, only to exist in pictures.
It’s story is compelling, with funding for the original library building given to the city by James Nichols, a local businessman and professor. He wanted children to have what he didn’t have, which was access to books. The library moved to its new location on Jefferson in 1986 and the building was used as a church thereafter. Now a new owner wants to convert it to a four-story building with stores, restaurants, offices and housing.
As with most people-driven actions, it only took a couple of people circulating a petition to seek landmark status for the building and now it churns its way through committees and ultimately the city council to determine its fate. I’m sure at one time or another the city of Chicago had the same situation when discussing the fate of the water tower on Michigan Avenue after the Chicago fire.
If landmark status is approved, and if the current owner decides to withdraw his plan (doubtful), then what becomes of this landmark building? Maybe a bookstore in the spirit of James Nichol’s original goal. Amazon is entering the world of ‘brick and mortar’. This would be ideal and they have the funding to make it work by restoring it on the inside.
Naperville has two downtown bookstores, and the timing of councilwoman Becky Anderson (co-owner of Anderson’s Book Store) running for congress, along with Anderson’s bookstore looking a little exhausted, couldn’t be better. Downtown Naperville could still have two bookstores. If she loses the election, she could be the manager of Amazon’s James Nichol’s Book Store.
If ‘ifs and buts’ were candy and nuts, everyday would be Christmas.