Shawmut is completing a historic renovation to create the Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library, a four-story Italian Renaissance-style building that also houses an interactive art gallery, large scale event space, and auditorium in Newark, New Jersey. The project is slated to be completed in March 2021.

In partnership with design firm Ann Beha Architects, the renovation includes the conversion of a double-height reading room that had in recent years been used for storage into the Philip Roth Personal Library, which will house the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s personal 7,000-volume collection. The new custom space will feature study and exhibition areas, as well as a new reading room and spaces for photos, stewardship, and small group assemblies. New mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems along with extensive temperature and humidity controls to support the collection's preservation will also be installed.

“It is an honor to be part of this project, one that is creating a living tribute to a great American author whose Newark roots are profound,” said David Margolius, executive vice president of Shawmut’s New York Metro region. “While it’s a unique responsibility to work on a building that is over a century old, our team is leveraging their expertise to ensure the upgrades and renovations will enable this landmark to serve the community for generations to come.”

Roth, a Newark native who died in 2018, announced in 2016 that he would leave his personal collection to the library, which he often cited as a refuge and inspiration for his writing. Roth memorabilia and noteworthy items in his collection, including his writing desk and favorite Eames chair, will be on display. Plans are also underway to build on the successful Roth-focused programming that was held in the spring of 2020.

"Creation of the Philip Roth Personal library has been a dream since Mr. Roth bequeathed his collection to us nearly five years ago. His books and personal items are priceless, and we knew the room had to preserve them into perpetuity,” said Joslyn Bowling Dixon, director of Newark Public Library. “Partnering with Shawmut has turned those dreams into reality. They created a space with aesthetics and functionality worthy of housing Mr. Roth's collection, and one that meets the highest building standards. The Personal Library will draw scholars from around the world as well as Newark residents who live around the corner to enjoy the work of one of the world’s — and our city’s — greatest writers.”

In addition to the Roth Personal Library, the 8,860 square-foot project includes a new, modern heating and cooling system in Centennial Hall, the building’s monumental oak paneled lecture hall and event space, as well as restoration of historic millwork and plaster.

Last November, 200 pieces of high-end office furniture were also donated to the library by Shawmut and client Soho House. Shawmut volunteers and partners packed, transported, delivered, and assembled the furniture that will be used throughout the space and branch libraries.

Media Coverage: New York YIMBY