IRVINGTON, N.Y. – It took more than eight years and $280,000 to fully restore the Tiffany Reading Room at Irvington Village Hall, and residents can finally celebrate its grand reopening this week.
“I think we're very, very happy,” Christopher Mitchell said. Mitchell is co-chair of the Reading Room committee, which oversaw the restoration efforts. “This has been an arduous process.”
The Tiffany Reading Room is one of four surviving rooms designed by Louis C. Tiffany and the only one open free of charge to the public.
Irvington Village Hall has always had a reading room because of a deed requirement, Mitchell said. Eventually the small lending library grew to become the Irvington Public Library.
The restoration process began in 1999, when the library moved from its original location in Village Hall to the Burnham Building on South Astor Street and most of the former library space became office space. Officials left the former reference area intact because it housed the original reading room's mosaics and fancy woodwork, Mitchell said.
“Because of all the décor and furniture in this room was original, it seemed a shame to simply paint it white again and put it into service again as white offices,” he said.
Serious work on the restoration efforts began in 2004, after the library had settled into its new building, Mitchell said. Before crews could begin construction, the committee spent several years researching how the room originally looked.
“There were no original plans available, so that all had to be reverse engineered” through paint chips and cross-sections of the walls, Mitchell said. The process revealed a lost sconce in the southwest corner that had been taken down to accommodate a bookcase. Officials also found the many sayings that were painted around the room originally had been bronze powder.
Fifteen tiles around windowsills and the clock had been lost, Mitchell said. Those were replaced with original Tiffany glass from a Brooklyn foundation.
“Everything you see is original Tiffany glass,” Mitchell said. “Ninety-nine and a half percent is original to this room.”
The room will be used as a public reading room and meeting space. Mitchell said the library also plans to host events in the space and will be curating reading materials.
“Village residents in the center village actually lost something important at this altitude when the library moved to the bottom of the hill,” he said. “We've had a number of people who've said 'I plan to come in and spend the morning working.'”
Mitchell also hopes residents can enjoy seeing Louis Tiffany's personality and taste.
“The room had some of that before, but it's stronger now,” he said, later adding “We hope that people will be drawn to understand something of that era simply by visiting here."
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