Trustees of the Edgartown Free Public Library unveiled designs for the proposed $11.5 million expansion project on North Water street this week.

The plan, which would connect the Carnegie library and recently purchased Captain Warren house by way of a 17,000-square-foot addition, raised eyebrows at the historic district commission public hearing on Wednesday.

"This is a really residential area, and you're connecting two historic buildings with a more contemporary and more commercial addition," commission member Catherine Finch said. "This is something we really need to think about. It would be setting a whole new precedent in Edgartown."


Library architect Robert Silver asked Mrs. Finch whether she thought the addition looked contemporary.

"I do," Mrs. Finch answered. "I absolutely do."

Facing overcrowding in the 100-year-old Carnegie library, town voters approved the $3.5 million purchase of the adjacent 1850 Captain Warren house for an expansion project at a special town meeting and election last summer.

Library trustees now must have the design of that expansion approved by voters and various town boards, as well as secure funding for the rest of the project.

Library director Ann Tyra said that an estimate this month placed future costs at $11.5 million, which the library intends to raise through grants and fund raising. Mrs. Tyra said the library hopes to avoid asking the town for more money.

Voters, however, will be asked at annual town meeting in April to approve the renovation and expansion design and authorize the trustees to apply for and possibly accept a state grant. The trustees hope to make some progress at the historic district commission and zoning board of appeals before then.


The commission must approve any exterior architectural changes in the historic district, which encompasses approximately 250 properties in downtown Edgartown. The zoning board must permit any alterations to the nonconforming Captain Warren house, which is in violation of town zoning because it does not have a side yard setback.

Commission members on Wednesday voted to continue their public hearing until they do a site visit and the applicant returns with revised plans some time in early March. Also on Wednesday the zoning board told library trustees it would not consider the project until the historic commission came to a consensus.

While commission members had different opinions about the specifics of the new design, one thing everybody agreed upon this week was that the size and scale of the proposed expansion - which totals more than 24,000 square feet - is quite big.

"This is probably going to be one of the largest projects Edgartown has embarked on in a very long time," zoning board chairman Martin (Skip) Tomassian Jr. said.

"It looks huge because it is huge. It's a huge building," historic commission secretary Ursula Prada said. "But this is a municipal building, and municipal buildings do have some monumental scale. You don't want your municipal building to look like a house."

Speaking at the end of the commission meeting, library building committee member and former trustee Alison Cannon reiterated the purpose of the expansion, and asked that commissioners not get hung up on the size.


"This is going to be Edgartown's public library. We want it to be something we are proud of," Mrs. Cannon said. "We don't want it to be too insignificant. We want to join these two buildings together in a way that they both stand out."

The proposed design calls for the demolition of the back wings of both the Carnegie and Warren buildings, and for the Carnegie building to be moved slightly forward and to the right. The Captain Warren house would remain in its original location and be restored to its 1973 appearance.

The two buildings would then be connected to a three-story addition by glass-planed hallways, and a 10-space parking lot would be created behind the Carnegie building.

While some questions about the parking lot arose on Wednesday, commission members focused on the exterior appearance of the new addition.

Commission members took issue with the vertical scheme of the paneled bay windows that jut out of the sides of the building. They preferred an earlier design with separate punched out windows.

Also discussed were the lead-coated copper roof and the exterior motif of the addition. Commission members did not agree whether it should be white clapboard or cedar shingled.

They did agree that the design may use too much glass, particularly in the sections that connect the two historic buildings to the addition.


"I don't think we're too far away," commission member William Bishop said. "Not so much glass and punched out windows instead of bays. You're almost there."