Last month, in preparation for new construction, developer Dwight Avram removed the Mid-Century Modern addition to the old Nichols Library. According to the board minutes of the Nichols Library, an addition to the 1898 library was requested as early as 1926. Again, a proposal for an addition was given to the Naperville City Council in 1930, but no action was taken.
In 1934, an arsonist set the checkout desk and card catalog on fire which nearly gutted the interior of the library; yet, no plans were made to enlarge the library.
Finally, in 1960 the library moved forward with a much-needed expansion. Northfield architect Albert R. Martin, Jr., was selected to construct an addition to the south side of the library which would double the capacity of the library.
Albert Martin was born in Chicago in 1902. After World War II, Martin moved his architectural firm from Chicago to Northfield. He primarily designed school buildings and was at one time a member and president of the Sunset Ridge School Board, a Northfield village trustee, and chairman of the planning commission.
Around 1934, he married Naperville native, Eleanor Beckman, the granddaughter of Philip Beckman whose harness and saddle shop was located at northwest corner of Washington and Chicago. Eleanor’s father was Bernard Beckman and her mother was May Ballou, the daughter of Sylvester Ballou. May Ballou Beckman was a director on the Nichols Library board.
The new addition provided space for periodicals, sound recordings, a large reading room, the Beckman Art Book library, workrooms and an office. The basement was made with a 250-person meeting room. For the first time the library was air-conditioned.
The December 9, 1962, issue of the Chicago Tribune reported, “The original building, costing $10,000, had undergone only two changes (both interior remodels) until current expansion.”