As construction continues on a significant expansion of the North Bellmore Public Library, the project has uncovered some long-buried pieces of the past that will now become a part of the library’s future.
Ray Beeler, of Gallin Beeler Design Studio, the project’s architects, said recently that work on the front of the building uncovered an elaborate mosaic depicting an open book with two globes — one sitting on each half of the book.
“The mosaic was shown on the original drawings, in 1961,” Beeler said. “It had been covered up at some point in the history of the library. We sort of assumed it didn’t exist anymore, but when the demolition was done, we were delighted.”
Library Director Tom Bazzicalupo immediately knew the mosaic should be preserved as a memorial to the timeless appeal of the library as an institution, even as the building moves into the 21st century.
“It’s already heavily damaged, because it was covered up,” Bazzicalupo said. “No one even knew it was there, except when they started taking down the canopy in the front.”
“If we can’t get it down in one piece, we’ll take photos and frame it up nicely,” he added.
The mosaic sparked interest in the community as well. No one has been able to identify the artist yet, or when it was installed.
“We had a pa-tron call, who was very interested,” Bazzicalupo said. “She said she was going to reach out to . . . her older neighbors, and share it on the mothers group on Facebook. People are chiming in.”
Library patron Jo Ann Erhard took to Facebook, soliciting the help of “Bellmore life-timers and amateur historians” to pinpoint when the mosaic went up, when and why it was covered, and who the artist was.
“It may become a beautiful art piece in the new library,” Erhard said.
“I’m hoping the construction and administration officials can save the world globes on the existing building façade of the library that is being redone,” resident Gloria Schramm wrote. “It’s beautiful. It was hidden all these years. It’s a shame if it is not saved or left exposed in the new design. It would be a beautiful decoration and feature to enjoy for decades to come.”
The mosaic is missing tiles, and is peppered with holes from past construction — but Beeler said that his firm would indeed help the library preserve the historical piece for future patrons to enjoy.
“We’ve taken high-quality digital photos of it,” Beeler said. “We’re going to reconstruct it and redisplay it in a prominent place.”
His firm will use software to fill in the holes and broken pieces in the photo of the mosaic. He believes it may have been covered up during an addition in the 1980s.
Workers also discovered a time capsule, dated 1961, filled with memorabilia from the community’s debate over building a new library to replace the prior one, which had stood since 1947, and, according to news reports at the time, was bursting at the seams by the 1960s.
“Library building sags, and book growth lags,” proclaimed an April 2, 1961, Long Island Press article in support of the new building.
A contingent of voters opposed the new building’s price tag, insisting that the same facilities could be bought for half the price. The $200,000 new building was approved by voters, 2,290 to 815, that month, according to a Newsday article included in the time capsule.