Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Connor Library

Your library is your paradise.
-Desiderius Erasmus

Welcome to the Connor Library at Freeman House. Kick your shoes off and come on in!

What is it about a personal library that appeals to us so? For me, the fascination with library rooms can be credited to two childhood masterpieces: the book The Velvet Room and the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Ever since reading/seeing those stories I wanted to be either Robin or Belle. It is, I suppose, the dream of many small, bookish girls - to be taken in and loved by someone with a cozy library alive with far-off lives and places.

So this will be my library. This dark, substantially anchored, European salon, cigar-and-newspaper, book-lined room is on its way toward complete restoration as I keep a close eye on its past. The room has an interesting history. Originally a bedroom, this room is now called the "Connor Library" in honor of the family who owned the home at the turn of the century. And while I've been unable to confirm tales and hunches, I believe the Connor family may have built the original portion of this home in 1892. (Regardless, I personally know of two people who were born in this room around the time the Titanic sank. Their stories, as told to me by children and grandchildren, are hauntingly incredible.)

To give you a bit of placement, the library is to your right once you're standing in the entry hall of Freeman House. The space is square, has three doors and four enormous windows, and faces east. Beautiful morning light. It all sits about 5 feet off the ground, so peering out of the thick, wavy-glassed windows you glimpse hydrangeas and various tangles of green things below.

The room is painted rather darkly, isn't it? I wanted it that way. I wanted us to think of a Jane Austen film or an English castle's library when we entered: big, dark wood... dusty volumes... old maps... heavy furniture... lined drapes. No fairies or girly flowers in here. No sir. This is a cozy, safe, cuddle-in-and-stay-the-afternoon world strewn with puffy chairs and ottomans and blankets and rugs.

(And books. Don't forget the books. The shelves and the rolling ladder have yet to be (re)installed, so they're piled and standing around everywhere.)

The room has nooks and wide baseboards and creaky doors. The enormous fireplace is anchored directly across from you as you enter the room. Although it takes a bit of imagination, I can already see it sparking and crackling with dancing flames and a heavily-laid table before it. Perhaps it's a winter night and we're having roast tenderloin and mashed potatoes and chocolate tart. After dinner, you can climb the ladder and pull down a book or pick up a paper as I sit at the piano and play Beethoven. When the fire dies and the old room grows quiet and dark, we'll trudge off to quilted beds, heavy as we are with home-cooked food and a treasury of words and sounds.

One day soon. Right now, it's a jumble of a hundred details to complete. But it's come so far. Here's an idea of what it looked like the day I began to clean it out:

And here it is cleaned out and almost ready to paint. Gosh, it took forever to paint this room and an eternity to restore that original mantle. To give you an idea of scale, that fireplace surround is nearly as tall as I am. (The scaffolding is 6 feet tall.) And allow me to come clean right now: many, many bad words were said during the stripping, scraping, sanding, and staining of that darn mantle. If I could dig up and re-die the people who painted it 247 times - with lead-based paint - I would.

Moving on. Here's a before glance at the left wall of the library. (Don't tell, but there's a tiny hidden room behind the little door's closet.) And the open doorway leads to the study/television room. I'm eager to get going on that space.

But for now it's all about the library. The dark, cozy room in which childhood dreams are realized and remembered.

This could be your adopted library space too, you know. I would be honored. So would the generations of folks who began and lived out their lives within these walls....

Welcome to the Connor Library at Freeman House.