Whitman County Library is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the construction of its Colfax Branch by seeking recognition from the National Register of Historic Places to recognize the building’s Expressionist architecture.
To assist in the application process, the library is asking community members to share their memories of the building or ways the library has impacted their lives and the community. People interested in sharing can contact Sue Hallett, a Friends of the Library volunteer heading up the research, at firstname.lastname@example.org by July 10.
The Main Street building was designed by noted architect Warren C. Heylman of Spokane, also known for his work on the Spokane Parkade and the Spokane Regional Health District building, according to a press statement from the library. The Sceva Construction Company completed the new library in the fall of 1960, after finishing Colfax High School earlier that year.
The library project cost about $129,000, which some local residents felt was quite expensive, according to history compiled by the library. It was funded with $20,000 in library reserve funds, community donations, and an $85,000 bond issue purchased by the Old National Bank at 4 percent and paid off within six years through property tax revenues.
The building’s design drew both positive and negative reviews as it was radically different from the red brick construction of most of the other downtown buildings. It is largely constructed of concrete with a white stucco and natural stone exterior. Its open concept interior includes a front wall composed entirely of windows and a rounded, sculptural profile.
During each revision over the last 60 years, library leaders were careful to retain the integrity of Heylman’s original design. In November 2018, Heylman, then 95, received an award from the Spokane Preservation Advocates organization for significant contributions to the cultural and historic heritage of Spokane County. At that time, the Spokesman-Review interviewed his daughter, Ann Martin, now the principal partner of the Heylman Martin architectural firm. She said that the Whitman County Library was her favorite among her father’s many projects.
“The library board has respected that building and altered it very little since it was built. I just love that building,” she said. “I think he does, too.”
In Colfax, the Post Office and the Perkins House are among buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In preparing the library’s nomination, staff and volunteers believe recollections from local residents about their experiences with the building on the corner of Spring and Main Streets will add richness and texture.