The Noyes Library in Kensington Credit: Noyes Children's Library Foundation

The nonprofit hoping to raise $1.6 million for major upgrades to a historic Kensington children’s library says its fundraising efforts have stalled after the group learned of new cost estimates for the project from Montgomery County that could put it out of reach.

Montgomery County owns and operates the Noyes Library for Young Children, the rectangular-house on Carroll Avenue established in 1893 and thought to be the oldest public library in the Washington, D.C., area.

About three years ago, the nonprofit Noyes Children’s Library Foundation came to the county with an offer to help provide funding for a complete renovation of the building, something that interested county officials strapped for library construction funds.

On Thursday, Lindsay Field of the library foundation told members of the County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee delays on the county’s end have led to a rising cost estimate of $3.1 million that “jeopardizes the confidence of potential donors and the motivation of volunteers” in the foundation’s fundraising campaign.

The county has committed $1 million to the project. Field told the council members the county should commit to fund the remaining $500,000 not covered by the foundation.

Ramona Bell-Pearson, assistant chief administrative officer for the county, said the county expects to provide a formal agreement on how to proceed with the project to the foundation next week.


Bell-Pearson also said the foundation has been frustrated because the renovation can’t be treated as a private development project, which the foundation believes would lead to lower cost estimates.

Because the library is a county-owned and operated facility, Bell-Pearson said it must meet county development standards when it comes to contractor bidding and design requirements. She also indicated the county must spend cautiously on the project as the foundation has yet to raise the $1.6 million promised.

“Working with other groups where we’ve had commitments, they’ve had the best intentions, but the funding just doesn’t come,” Bell-Pearson said. “You can’t stop with half a building.”


Council member Roger Berliner called the foundation’s commitment “extraordinary” and urged the county to move forward on the project as quickly as possible.

Council member George Leventhal said the county may need to forward-fund the project and recoup construction costs from the foundation or other sources.

In the interim, the county has installed a wheelchair ramp to the front of the building. The renovation project, as envisioned by the library foundation, would create three floors of usable space, add an elevator and stairway, a lower level with two bathrooms, a work space for staff and an upper level with space for programs and classes.


A member of the foundation said the group has delayed planned fundraising events and the Friends of the Library is holding a $90,000 bequest given to benefit the library until an official agreement between the foundation and county is finalized. The project also has the backing of a $50,000 state bond bill and delegates from District 18 have expressed interest in submitting another $50,000 state bond bill during the legislative session that started Wednesday.

Preliminary design of renovated Noyes Library, via Noyes Children’s Library Foundation