Endangered: Hyattsville Library

10/05/2014
By Preservation Maryland

The Hyattsville Library in Prince George’s County was listed as an Endangered Maryland site in 2014.

HISTORY

The asymmetrical footprint, clean lines, and reduced ornamentation are just some of the characteristics that qualify the Hyattsville Library as mid-century modern. The one feature that really catches people’s attention as they walk through the front door is the space ship hovering above the entrance. Designed by Mount Rainer, Maryland, architects Walton and Madden, the library was dedicated in March 1964 in memory of President John F. Kennedy. The concrete “saucer” and Plexiglas dome that covers the main entrance and stands taller than the building visually ties the building to the Space Race that consumed the nation at the time of the library’s construction. The facility which includes library space and administrative offices is still in use today.

SIGNIFICANCE

This building is an integral part of a larger landscape of mid-century modern buildings in this part of Hyattsville. Buildings from the middle of the 20th century are just starting to reach age 50 which means they meet the traditional definition for historic, but the style and designs are not held in high regard by all. For this reason, people often have no concerns with the demolition of buildings in the mid-century modern style. At the time of its dedication, the library attracted national attention for its practical usefulness and its charm. In addition to its design, it is also an important building in the history of Prince George’s County because it was the first county-built library building.

THREAT

A proposal to renovate the library and construct an addition was accepted by residents and bonds were passed in 2010 and 2012 to finance the work. At a public meeting in August 2013, the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) announced plans for a new one-story library of approximately the same size that would take the place of the current mid-century modern building.

GOALS

The PGCMLS has done little to involve the public in the decision-making process related to the future of the Hyattsville Library. Many in the library community are unaware of the county’s decision to raze the building. There is a growing groundswell of support for preserving and renovating the existing building. Efforts by the community group “Save Our Saucer” have drawn attention to the matter and surrounding municipalities have passed resolutions asking the county to include the public in the decision-making process. The Hyattsville Preservation Association hopes to convince the county to conduct a feasibility study for rehabilitation of this culturally and historically significant building.

To get involved, contact Gloria Felix-Thompson hpahyattsville@hotmail.com

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Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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