The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 21, 2020 12:30 pm

Restored Auburn library building to reopen after arson

The Journal Gazette

Nearly three years ago, Eckhart Public Library's main building in Auburn was badly damaged in an arson fire.

The building will reopen March 15 with an open house from 1 to 5 p.m., and overdue fines, no matter how old, will be forgiven if materials are returned from March 15 through April 15, officials announced Friday.

Built in 1910 and expanded in 1996, the library at 603 S. Jackson St.  has been restored and renovated after a fire devastated its interior and destroyed its collection of books and materials.

In the overnight hours of July 2, 2017, a mortar-style firework was dropped inside the book drop, causing an explosion and fire.

The work during the last 2 1/2 years repaired the damage and "renovated the library with an eye toward accessibility and other needs identified by the community through strategic planning," a statement from the library said Friday.

The building has been closed, but services continued in the library's other building and, for a time, a temporary location was established in Auburn Plaza.

The improvements were accomplished through For Every Citizen, the library's capital campaign launched in 2018. With a $4 million gift from The James Foundation, the campaign is $700,000 shy of reaching its $12 million goal.

The capital campaign improvements included the work at the main library, expansions to children's and teen services and a $4.5 million library endowment fund. The James Foundation continues to match donations, the library said.

Most recently, the library's 110-year-old clay tile roof was replaced using tiles sourced from the same American company that crafted the originals, the library said.

To thank the community, the library's Start with a Clean Slate program will forgive overdue fines for any items returned from March 15 through April 15 -- no matter how old the fines are. Those items must have been checked out at an Eckhart Public Library location.

In October 2017, Nykolas E. Elkin, then 24, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the library arson. He was also sentenced to two years for violating his probation as part of a plea agreement, for a total of 14 years behind bars. Elkin was also placed on probation for 2 1/2 years for failing to register as a sex offender.

In November 2013, Elkin pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a minor.

See a gallery

To see a July 2017 photo gallery of the damage at Eckhart Public Library's main building, click on this URL --,%20/media/20170719/fire-damage-at-the-eckhart-public-library-in-auburn

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily

Share this article