The roots of the La Porte County Library (LPCPL) extend back nearly two centuries, beginning when the McClure’s Workingman’s Institute (also known as the McClure’s Library) was established with a grant in 1856.
What followed was 60 years of relocations, expansions, and new associations being formed.
In 1916 the School Board of Education, which oversaw the facility at that time, won a $27,500 appropriation from the Carnegie Corporation for a new library. Utilizing that allotment, a former YWCA building and tennis court were transformed into what we now know as the main La Porte County Library building. Construction was completed in 1921, and in 1939 the LPCPL was officially established.
Since then, the library has experienced a lengthy list of changes, renovations, and the establishment of new branches and services. Today, it consists of 7 buildings and one mobile library.
JPR’s partnership with the LPCPL began in 2021, with the design of a new parking lot at its main branch in downtown La Porte, Indiana. Since then, our team designed and provided construction administration for a remodel of both the exterior windows and monumental stairs, as well as a Reading Wi-Fi Garden and a new storage and maintenance building.
As part of their Strategic Plan, the LPCPL wanted to add off-street parking at their main library campus. They wanted to provide a better experience for their patrons – as most of them had to find parking along the street. In preparation for the parking lot, the library purchased and demolished several homes.
Once the project began, JPR was involved in every aspect from conceptual layout design to construction document development to construction administration services.
As part of the design, all stormwater is captured and retained under the parking lot in a french drain system. Native plants were also used for landscaping, which is intrinsically low-maintenance, quicker to establish, and resilient to local weather conditions.
The library now features 56 new parking spaces, providing patrons with only a short walk to the library entrance.
JPR was hired to provide design for the replacement of exterior windows at the main branch. The historic arched windows remained, while all others were replaced.
One of the biggest challenges was to develop a design to repair rotted substructure in certain areas where the new windows were installed.
The new windows are thermally broken storefront windows with tinted low-E insulating glass. They are highly efficient for heating and cooling load within the building, and easier to maintain than the wood single-pane windows that were removed.
At over 100 years old, the existing granite stairs were starting to deteriorate and quickly becoming a safety concern for both staff and visitors. This deterioration at the main entrance was due, in part, to years of salt-use during the winter months.
Ensuring that the appearance and character of the original entrance remained consistent was a top priority – as was designing it to meet current regulatory compliance. To achieve this, JPR crafted a staircase that closely resembled the existing one while integrating modern railing elements into the design. Electrical heat was also incorporated. This heat source was installed underneath the stairs to melt ice and snow during winter. Ultimately, this innovation has eliminated the need to salt the stairs during bad weather – providing safety for all visitors and preserving the staircase for generations to come.
Completed in March 2023, the remodeled staircase invites the public to step inside and explore the library.
LPCPL wanted to provide its patrons with a comfortable outdoor experience. It needed to be both multi-functional and aesthetically pleasing.
This is how the Reading Wi-Fi Garden came to life.
The space was designed to provide an outdoor park for the library and its patrons. It contains a looped walking path with pedestrian-scale lighting. Seating nodes are spaced throughout the park, and an area of flat, open lawn can be used for passive play or to host library events with tents and chairs. A steady Wi-Fi connection is also available to the public, as are places to charge electronic devices. Additionally, the landscaping around the perimeter of the park and the walking path is irrigated for ease of maintenance.
Two sculptural nodes were incorporated into the space, and at the southeast corner of the site, a captivating sculptural installation took shape. Crafted from the granite stair treads extracted during the main entrance remodel, JPR worked with LPCPL to design a sculpture piece inspired by the work of Isamu Noguchi. Noguchi, an internationally known artist of the 20th century, spent much of his adolescent years in La Porte.
As part of the overarching design, stormwater management was a crucial component. The park was designed to collect all stormwater on-site using two drywells and a gravel trench drain system. This system will help control the flow of stormwater during heavy rainfall, reducing the risk of flooding in the Reading Wi-Fi Garden and its surrounding areas. Drywells, by design, also allow for the infiltration of stormwater into the ground helping to maintain the balance of groundwater resources.
The Reading Wi-Fi- Garden opened to the public in September 2022. And today, it not only serves as a place for reading and respite but also a place to hold outdoor events such as concerts, festivals, and picnics. We look forward to witnessing the many events that will be held in the garden over the coming years.
Working with LPCPL and their maintenance team, JPR designed a new storage and maintenance building. Although located at the main library in La Porte, this new facility will be utilized by all LPCPL branches.
The building was designed to have two offices for library maintenance staff. The garage, which consists of four-bays, also doubles as a workshop. As part of the design, the building features a covered porch with picnic table seating and a large front yard for hosting programs and activities. Additionally, new sidewalks and trees were installed to liven up the site.
Completed in September 2022, the new building provides the library with more storage for their work vans, utility vehicles, and additional equipment.
The mission of the La Porte County Public Library is to be “the center of community life with a focus on reading, lifelong learning, and public involvement.” JPR is privileged to have been able to positively impact the quality of life for La Porte County, helping enhance and support LPCPL’s mission.
We look forward to continuing our relationship with LPCPL, and seeing the impact the library will continue to have over the next 100 years.