Feeding Chuckatuck’s Minds

Source: Matthew Ward

Though the building on Godwin Boulevard housing Chuckatuck Library has only served its current mission since 1989, it’s been feeding minds — in a sense — since the very beginning.

A refurbishment that will be ongoing during about the next three weeks has given those interested an excuse to unearth the history of the old building.

Ben Scott, who recently started as marketing and community relations coordinator with Suffolk Public Libraries, is one of those who’s been doing some digging regarding the Chuckatuck branch.

Scott learned that the library originally opened in the Saunders Supply Company building — which is next door — on April 26, 1982.

“They moved to the current building in 1989,” Scott said, adding it had earlier been the Chuckatuck High School cafeteria.

For the refurbishment, Chuckatuck Library is being updated with shelves from defunct book retailer Borders, said Clint Rudy, director of Suffolk Public Libraries.

The freshen-up of the old building — the impetus behind the flurry of delving into historical records — has been dubbed “the Chuckatuck Library lift.”

It’s happening over about three weeks starting Tuesday, Rudy said.

“We were able to purchase furniture from the Chesapeake Public Library (system),” Rudy said. “They were able to get it from Borders book stores” after that retail chain went bust. “We (got) it for $5,000.”

At the library on Godwin Boulevard Friday working with others getting books and other items out for the spruce-up, Rudy said a “furniture guy” estimated the wooden shelves were worth $15,000.

A mobile book bus at the same location will operate in lieu of the regular library building until it reopens, reconfigured and refreshed, on March 10, Rudy said.

“Before we move the shelving in, the landlord is going to put a fresh coat of paint on the interior and do new carpeting,” he said.

The landlord is the Saunders family that owns Saunders Supply Company next door, Rudy added.

“At the same time, we’ll be reorganizing the flow of the building with the new shelving,” Rudy said. “What we are going for is a more browse-able, open space.”

The Bookmobile will operate during regular library hours, he said. It cannot carry as many resources as the building, of course, so Rudy and other staff were carefully selecting items to go in it. “We are taking the best things we can fit into the Bookmobile,” he said.

Other delivery vehicles will take the place of the bookmobile while it replaces the building, according to a city news release.

Conrad Haas, co-chairman of The Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation, also believed the library building was once the old school’s cafeteria, but he also said it may have been the shop and agriculture building.

But the building was “once feeding us food (and) now it’s feeding us knowledge,” Haas quipped.

More seriously, he said he was delighted with the interest being shown in the building. “It’s one more thing that’s going on in Chuckatuck,” he said.

Lynn Rose, the foundation’s chairman, said she suspects the building dates from the early 1930s.

When Chuckatuck High closed in 1965, it became Chuckatuck Middle School, until that closed in 1977, she said, adding, “The lunchroom would have still been in operation then.”

Rudy said he had a soft spot for Chuckatuck Library, anchored in his beginnings in the librarian profession at the Cradock branch of Portsmouth Public Library — another small library.

“(Small libraries) have always been near and dear to my heart,” he said. “They’re integral to the community.”

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