Donation Leads to Renovation of Historic Herring Library | St. Lawrence University

Donation Leads to Renovation of Historic Herring Library

Two years after Cole Reading Room was renovated into a quiet study space with attention paid to restoring the original woodwork, the second half of St. Lawrence University’s historic Herring-Cole Hall will receive renovations of its own, thanks to a generous donation last month by a Laurentian couple.

Herring Library is the older section of Herring-Cole Hall, which constitutes the second-oldest building on campus, after nearby Richardson Hall. Constructed of locally-quarried Potsdam sandstone, Herring Library was built in 1870, when St. Lawrence University was only 14 years old. Named for its principal benefactor, a New York City safe manufacturer named Silas Herring, it replaced and greatly improved upon its predecessor, a room in Richardson (known until 1901 as College Hall) that contained a few week-old newspapers, a handful of classics, some bibles and a leaky woodstove.

“Preserving St. Lawrence’s heritage buildings such as Herring plays an important role in curating the University’s history but also in optimizing it for future generations of Laurentians,” said President William L. Fox ’75. “Herring Library has served our campus since nearly the beginning of the University’s inception, and it continues to be a popular place for students to study, bridging multiple generations with a sense of place.”

View a photo gallery of Herring Library at the start of renovations

The donors commented on their desire to help. “Herring Library represents the history and tradition of St. Lawrence, and we felt the building needed to match the newly renovated Cole Reading Room and complete a critical piece of the restoration of the north campus. We are excited about returning Herring to its original grandeur for the students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Cole Reading Room was attached in 1903, and the combined structure served as St. Lawrence’s library until Owen D. Young Library (ODY) opened in 1959. Herring was the main repository of book stacks and other resources, while Cole was primarily a study and staffing area. In 2014, Cole Reading Room received refinished woodwork as well as new lighting, carpet and reading tables and chairs thanks to generous gifts from Trustee Jay Ireland ’77 and Valerie Ireland ’77.

For several years, Herring housed the office of the University archivist and the University’s Ellsworth Museum, now the climate-controlled Vance Archives in ODY. From ODY’s opening in 1959 until the dedication of Griffiths Arts Center in 1967, both the Herring and Cole wings accommodated the University’s art department and, as such, functioned as a cramped art studio and classroom.

According to Bob Hance, St. Lawrence’s capital projects manager, the full scope of the renovation project is currently being developed by an advisory committee consisting of members of the University’s Board of Trustees, faculty and senior administrators. To date, two offices that were installed in Herring after ODY opened have been removed, and an asbestos abatement project took place during St. Lawrence’s Spring Break week. The renovation, Hance said, will be completed during the Fall 2016 semester.

Herring-Cole has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. That same year, the Sol Feinstone Room within the Herring wing was opened and dedicated to the preservation of Revolutionary War materials.

~ Neal Burdick contributed to this report