Chester Library preserved for another 25 years

The Chester library’s recent facelift includes repairing, restoration and repainting. All were steps to preserve the building for years to come. The Friends of the Chester Library group plans to update the landscaping this spring. Photo by Laura MacGregor
Laura MacGregor

  Thanks to a grant from a private foundation, a donation from Womack Construction and funds from the Friends of the Chester Library, the Chester branch library has been repaired, restored, repainted and preserved for another generation of library patrons.

  The Chester library, which has a long history, is the only log library in California. The books that fill the library today began as a small collection brought from Ohio in a covered wagon by Melissa Bailey Olsen in the 1860s.

  Chester community volunteers originally constructed the building in 1929. Edith Martin donated the land in 1928 and that same year Fletcher Walker donated the logs from Red River Lumber Co., which was located in Westwood.

  The trees were cut in the fall and allowed to dry before they were used the following spring. The logs were floated down the North Fork Feather River to the building site, which was adjacent to the river.

  In 1984, an addition to the library was constructed. Marilyn Quadrio, who had wanted to establish a Chester museum, and Laura MacGregor, president of the Friends of the Chester Library, joined forces to raise $82,000, the only obstacle between the Plumas County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the project and an enlarged library building.

  With a substantial donation from Collins Pine Co., funding from Plumas County, monies from a local museum trust fund established in the 1960s, a contribution from the Friends of the Chester Library and numerous donations from the residents of Chester, the 35-by-50-foot addition was completed in early 1985.

  By 2011, it was noticed that a large gap had appeared in a wooden windowsill, where the 1929 lumber had disintegrated. The Chester Library/Chester-Almanor Museum building had not been painted for 26 years.

  The original south wall of the building had deteriorated from exposure to sun, wind, rain and snow. A misadjusted sprinkler only added to the problems.

  The Friends of the Chester Library asked Plumas County to repair the building. Due to the downturn in the economy and a significant reduction in United States Forest Service timber-receipt funding (this agency controls approximately 70 percent of the land in Plumas County, but pays no property taxes), there were no monies available.

  Laura MacGregor applied for a grant from a private foundation in the amount of $8,500. The grant was awarded in June 2012 and the Friends of the Chester Library contributed sufficient funds to pay the balance of the cost.

  Womack Construction was hired to do the project as owner Brett Womack had been one of the three contractors (John Bentley, Randy Broglio and Womack) who had constructed the log addition and, further, had decades of experience maintaining log buildings.

  As an extension of the funded project, Womack generously donated approximately $1,500 in labor, caulking and window replacement.

  He also decided to invest a substantial amount of donated labor on the preparation of the logs, so that the paint would last perhaps another 25 years.

  In addition to sandblasting, power washing, filling the large cracks, sealing and painting, which were included in the project, the smaller cracks in the logs were also caulked. Since any water that could collect in the logs would cause the paint to peel, and because of the hundreds of cracks that had developed, the project ended up requiring 144 tubes of a special log-caulking compound.

  During the 1929 construction, horsehair rope and a woolen material were used for insulation between the logs. Since those materials had deteriorated on the south wall and replacements were no longer readily available, the contractor came up with a novel solution. The painters took full sheets of newspaper (perhaps including the Chester Progressive) and twisted them into ropes, which were used to fill the cracks.

  The paper replaced the horsehair, filled the voids and provided a backing for the caulking. Once the building was painted, the paper was sealed in place.

  With the assistance of Chester Paint Center, an exterior paint was chosen, which could be applied over stain or paint on weathered wood. A dark green paint was selected for the trim, which complements the library’s new cocoa color.

  The library and literacy staffers hope community residents will visit the library to admire the refinished exterior and check out the many free services offered.

  Books, periodicals, magazines, audio books, computer access, a literacy program for children and adults with various reading disabilities, including dyslexia, and English as a second language services are all available at the Chester branch library.

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