PALMETTO -- City officials have won the promise of a $105,000 state grant to help pay for the repair of leaking windows at the historic Carnegie Library in Palmetto's Historical Park, 515 10th Avenue West.
Water has been gaining access to the building, which will turn 101 years old in December, causing great concern for museum staff, city officials and preservationists.
"You can see the water coming straight through the windows when the wind is blowing a certain way," said Historical Park curator Tori Edwards, who is in the midst of a year-long fundraising campaign to raise more than $200,000 for the repairs.
"That's what we are looking at as a minimum," said Edwards. "We don't know what they will find once they start getting into the walls, so it could be more expensive."
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The Palmetto Historical Society and the city of Palmetto will match the state grant, which is contingent on approval by the Florida Legislature, with a hopeful payoff by July 1 to begin work. Until then, staff will "continue to run around with buckets and towels to ensure our artifacts and archives are protected, because we don't know what all this water is doing as far as long-term damage and if mold has been building that can affect these interior artifacts," said Edwards.
The city took emergency measures during August's threat of Tropical Storm Erika and placed storm shutters over some of the more vulnerable windows with the most damage. Edwards asked if the city could leave the shutters up until after hurricane season and the
city gladly complied.
"This is one of the jewels of the city," said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. "The city is going to put up $79,000 toward the repairs, but it's only part of the fund-raising goal of $360,000. All of us are very excited about the grant because it gives the momentum of reaching our goal to have these repairs done, protect these artifacts and expand to make the park more effective for enjoyment and children's education."
Staff members have made at least 10 attempts over the past three years alone to seal the window frames, to no avail.
"It's really great to have such an important state agency recognize, support and take interest in protecting our history and heritage," said Edwards.
Beyond the library's needs, the fundraising goal also is to replicate the home of the city's second postmaster Mary Nettles, who had the first post office constructed in 1880, which is on display at the park. Edwards said Nettles saw a need for a post office when she assumed postmaster responsibilities.
"I think she got a little tired of people coming to her front door to drop off mail," Edwards said. "She was a homemaker. So she had the post office attached to her home so it was easy to just go next door to take care of post office business."
Bryant said there is a plan for improvements at the Historical Park, but the first priority are the windows.
"They are the priority to protect the archives in this library. We have entire family histories here, and moisture is not a good combination for all of these old papers," she said. "It's a priority because much could be lost."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.