Cathy L. Axelson-Berry: Trustee candidate urges historic preservation at Jones

Thursday, March 16, 2017
Library candidate urges preservation

The Jones Library is wonderful with its unique ambiance, thanks to the wisdom of its past stewards.

It was bequeathed by Samuel Minot Jones and designed to be homelike: Mother Amherst welcoming her children to her hearth, with small rooms for studying and writing. In addition, it provided Amherst with space for craft workshops and an auditorium for performances and discussions. Mr. Jones and the original trustees would raise their eyebrows to see today’s plan to gut much of the homelike three-story library and raze the 1990s addition, which blends so seamlessly that it is indistinguishable from its historic neighbors.

The trustees’ plan is to “modernize” the rest of the old building and construct an oversized building that’s the antithesis of cozy. The current trustees neglected their obligation that any plan be “in context with the building’s relationship” to Amherst’s historic district, required because it is listed on state and national historic registries.

Further, they neglected to inform their architects that they had previously accepted Community Preservation Act monies, and had a responsibility to follow through with signing and recording a historic preservation restriction. Trustees didn’t file the restriction, and now they act as if no restriction exists.

In the trustees’ plan, preservation is an afterthought. Instructions to the architects said, “In general, we are concerned about trying too hard to save the original rooms in the original building.”

The chickens are coming home to roost. On Dec. 23, 2016, the Massachusetts Historic Commission gave notice that it requires far more detail and documentation. Only then, can the commission determine the degree of “adverse effects” this plan would have on the historic Jones Library.

I am a candidate for Jones Library trustee because I want to develop a renovation plan that respects the historical significance of the Jones Library for our town.

Cathy L. Axelson-Berry


The writer is a candidate for Jones Library trustee.