From the Ashes

From Preservation November 1, 2010

April 30, 2007, was a day of “horror,” for Ginnie Cooper, the District of Columbia’s chief librarian. She shudders as she recalls the site of the Georgetown library cupola, engulfed in flames, crashing through the roof into the children’s section. The heat was so intense that steel girders bent like licorice, and books were reduced to ashes, carried away by the wind like confetti.

“The good news,” she consoled herself, “was that no one was hurt” by the fire, which broke out while workers were removing paint from a cornice. (The official cause is still in litigation.) Still, the normally spunky Cooper was beyond distressed. This maintenance project was supposed to be a relatively straightforward lead-paint abatement and window restoration. Now the entire collection was destroyed or damaged, including priceless historic documents, and the building was a smoke-and-water shambles.

Little did she know that there was more good news to come.

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