WESTBROOK – The historic Walker Memorial Library is getting made over, from the outside in.

Renovations last year restored the exterior of the Queen Anne-style building, saving it from the brink of being beyond repair.

Now, the interior of the 118-year-old library, which has suffered extensive water damage because of the structural deterioration, is ready to be redone.

A ceremony at 11 a.m. today will serve as a celebration of the recent renovations and kick off a campaign to raise $500,000 for the improvements to the building’s interior, including the restoration of stained glass windows and wainscotting.

The money would also pay for new furnishings, so the original portion of the library could serve its intended purpose — to be enjoyed by the public, said library director Karen Valley.

Built in 1894, the library was designed by Frederick Tompson, who was the architect for the Castle in the Park at Deering Oaks in Portland and the Portland Armory, which is now the Portland Regency Hotel.

“It’s got wonderful period features — the beautiful turrets, the magnificent stairs … It really was made as an important civic building where people could feel pride in their community,” said Hilary Bassett, executive director of Greater Portland Landmarks.

The library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

“It’s just a real architectural gem,” Bassett said.

The building tripled in size when a 12,000-square-foot addition was built in 1989, and that’s where the vast majority of the collection is kept.

About five years ago, the city spent about $650,000 to fix the leaky roof and skylights in the addition.

Although it was already clear that the historic exterior needed major repairs, the work on the addition took precedence because the collection was getting damaged when it rained.

After those renovations were complete, the city had a study done to determine the needs of the historic portion. The report concluded that the building needed $1.5 million worth of repairs.

City officials considered buying the former home of the private Warren Memorial Library, which had closed because of a dwindling endowment, and move the library there. They opted instead to use $675,000 borrowed for library purposes in 2010.

Valley said the library doesn’t plan to borrow more money.

“I think the city’s given us what it can,” she said.

The bond paid to restore the slate roof, repoint the brickwork, waterproof the foundation and reinstall granite stairs that lead up to the front entrance from Main Street.

Curt Sachs, the architect for the restoration, said that without the work, the building would have been beyond repair “within a couple of years.”

He expects the restoration to hold up for more than 60 years.

While the outside of the library is fixed, the effect of the deterioration remains.

The water damage is evident in the southern pine wainscoating throughout the second floor of the historic portion of the building.

Up the stately granite stairs and inside the front doors, there’s a local-history room to the right with a cabinet containing volumes of old valuation records. After the renovations, Valley hopes to have that room open to the public throughout the week, rather than by appointment, as it is now.

To the left is a gathering room, with high ceilings and a fireplace. A portrait of Joseph Walker, the building’s benefactor, hangs above the mantel.

Now, that room houses piles of office supplies, fold-out tables and rolling chairs that belong to staff members who have been displaced from offices on the floor below, where mold and asbestos were found.

Valley envisions that space as a reading room with comfy chairs and a constant fire.

“That’s what it was meant to be — to be enjoyed,” she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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