OGDEN — The library in Ogden’s older core has joined a slew of other historic structures singled out as the most iconic in the city.
The Weber County Library System’s Main Branch library at 2464 Jefferson Ave. — focus of a major upgrade that finished last year — has been placed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Originally completed in 1968, the monolithic building was built in the new formalism style, which incorporates classical building elements like symmetry and large scale.
Kate Stewart, president of the Weber County Heritage Foundation, lauded the designation. Other notable Ogden structures on the National Register include Ogden High School, Peery’s Egyptian Theater, Union Station and the Ogden Municipal Building, among many others.
The library structure “absolutely is on par with them for the time and era it was built. It speaks to the progress of Ogden over the years,” Stewart said. The building’s style may not be for everyone, “but I think that goes for all architecture.”
Among the distinctive flourishes of the library are the massive columns that make up much of its exterior and the overhanging roof with the gentle upward curve, said Lynnda Wangsgard, director of the library system. Other examples of the new formalism style around the country include the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York City, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the World Trade Center in New York City, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The style was most prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s.
Per the recent upgrade, which required the closure of the library for about 18 months until its grand reopening on April 4, 2018, much of its interior was gutted to modernize and update the structure. The original price tag of the overhaul was $16.8 million, but it came in lower than that, according to Wangsgard.
The renovation “married the needs of a library in the digital age with the preservation of a gem of mid-century modernist architecture,” reads a synopsis of the improvement on the website of Salt Lake City-based EDA Architects, which handled the project. EDA called the building “a historic example of Utah Modernism.”
The Ogden library project was part of a broader initiative to upgrade several libraries in the Weber County system, requiring a $45 million bond issue approved by voters in 2013. Addition of the Ogden library to the National Register, formalized last September, “signifies a closure to the capital facilities plans,” Wangsgard said.
The National Register of Historic Places aids in efforts “to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources,” according to the organization’s website. Weber County leaders had considered tearing down the Ogden library and building anew back when they were deciding on renovation plans, but ultimately decided to maintain the structure and upgrade it, according to Wangsgard.