Haydon Burns Library renovations on pace as 50-year-old panel is removed

By Andrew Pantazi – The Florida Times-Union

Beneath the streets of downtown Jacksonville where a conveyor belt once carried returned books, workers removed a control panel this week that was first installed a half-century ago.

The job of stripping the insides of the former Haydon Burns Library is nearly finished, and removal of the 15-foot-wide Johnson Controls electric panel was one of the last jobs in the project. The panel once controlled the building’s air-conditioning.

A wall still needs to come down so the panel can be removed from the basement near Forsyth and Ocean streets and taken to Johnson Controls’ Southside office where it will stand as an artifact of the company’s mid-20th century past.

The city’s old Main Library will finish its transformation into the Jessie Ball duPont Center next year. Construction workers soon will begin putting in steel and concrete to update the building.

Jessie Ball duPont Fund spokeswoman Mary Kress Littlepage said the nonprofit hopes to have the building open in time for next year’s OneSpark festival.

So far, she said, the building is on pace to open in the early spring of next year.

Already, the building’s southern wall has been taken down so it can stretch out further. The nonprofit has gathered some of the shattered green-and-yellow glass tiles to fill in an external panel. An iconic stairwell designed by architect Taylor Hardwick was destroyed, and a re-creation is expected to be built.

The new building, according to current plans, will have a grand hall, a putting green outside the third floor, permanent office space and “hot desks” for people who want to rent desks for short periods of time.

The roof will have reflective material as part of the plans to meet gold eco-friendly certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Danis Building Construction project engineer Robbie Hudson said he hopes to salvage about 90 percent of the materials from the building.

The building was originally built in 1965. Architect Hardwick emphasized he wanted it to be different from the classic, imposing library with its columns and drab, gray exterior. At the time, he said he wanted his library to be airy, inviting and cheerful.

He used glass walls so pedestrians could look inside. The colorful panels and columns would be playful, and the library, he said, would be a place people wanted to visit.

He lined the building’s exterior with its most famous feature: 88 fins, like the 88 keys on most pianos. The fins, the 90-year-old retired architect said, cast shadows and trapped wind that kept the building cool.

Local artist Ann Holloway Williams designed a four-panel brick mural surrounding the elevator, symbolizing man’s pursuit of knowledge. Hardwick and Williams visited seven masonries to collect 10,000 glazed bricks of the just-right colors.

The elevator, Littlepage said, will be preserved.


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