Library is looking for new owner of Swan site

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – For 112 years, this building at the corner of Main and State streets was home to Swan Library. It was vacated in June 2012 when the library moved to the new Hoag Library.

ALBION – A mansion that has dominated a corner on Main Street could be put up for sale on the open market.

The former Swan Library building at the corner of North Main and West State streets has been vacant for nearly two years. It has cost the Swan Library Association about $25,000 a year for minimal utilities, insurance, service contracts for the elevator and fire alarm, maintenance and grounds upkeep.

“We really need to get that monkey off of our backs,” Kevin Doherty, president of the library’s board of trustees, said at Wednesday’s board meeting.

The library board was open to selling the 6,000-square-foot site for a small amount if it was used for a public purpose such as a museum. County officials had talked about the site becoming a museum and an office for the county historian. But that initiative has failed to come to fruition.

“It never reached the point where a determination could be made,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “It was too loosely organized.”

John Sawyer, the CEO and co-owner of Western New York Energy, was pushing for the museum and offered to help finance it. He died from leukemia at age 72 in October. The Orleans County Historical Association also endorsed the project.

Doherty wants to check with the groups interested in the museum to see if there has been behind-the-scenes work toward that goal.

“We really need to think about a back-up plan,” he said.

The library will reach out to real estate companies, and may list the property on web sites for historic homes. Swan is located in a historic district that is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

If none of those efforts lead to a sale, board member Linda Smith said the library board may be forced to have an auction to dispose of the property.

The building was constructed in 1851. It was donated by the Swan family as a public library, which opened in 1900. The site became too cramped for a modern library and patrons complained there were only a few parking spaces. It is air-conditioned and has an elevator.

In July 2012, the new Hoag Library opened with 14,600 square feet and about 60 parking spaces. Circulation has jumped from about 80,000 annually at the Swan site to 120,000 last year at the Hoag.