We all remember falling in love.
For Dan Mayzum, that experience came on May 5, 2017, after he visited the renovated Sorg Opera House in downtown Middletown. As he was driving back to his office in Glendale, Mayzum stopped at a red light at the corner of First Avenue and Curtis Street. He looked to his right and there she sat, a sight for sore eyes.
Middletown’s Carnegie Library hasn’t aged well. She’s 105 years old but doesn’t look a day older than 199.
But that didn’t detour Mayzum, 49, owner of Architecture Renewal. He has learned not to judge a building — especially a library — by its cover.
“As I pulled out, I just saw her sitting here,” he said.
He then made an angelic praise of Hallelujah.
“It was one of those moments,” he said with a smile.
It was a short courtship.
Last month — 13 months after seeing the library for the first time — Mayzum bought the building and property, appraised at $95,000, for $5,000. Some consider his task impossible: Turning a dilapidated building into a useful property. There certainly is a track record of these type of unsuccessful projects throughout Middletown and beyond.
You only have to look at the former Manchester Inn, Sonshine Building and the former Lincoln School as examples. They’ve been on death row for years.
But Mayzum, who earned his masters degree in historical preservation and has 25 years experience, believes the Carnegie Library can get a stay of execution.
In fact, he believes the former library is alive and well.
“She is pretty amazing,” he said while standing on the broken concrete steps. “For a preservation architect, this a dream. Save this bad boy. Bring her back to life.”
He then unlocked two padlocks, warned visitors not to step into the tar near the front door and gave a 30-minute tour. The inside looks like the building has been vacant for about 15 years. Graffiti lines some of the walls. Some wooden beams have been knocked or fallen down. Some windows have been broken.
It looks like a haunted house.
The roof, the same place Mayzum envisions using for outdoor entertaining for up to 60 people, is covered with vegetation.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you keep reminding yourself. Mayzum must be blinded by love.
“It’s going to be amazing, dynamic,” Mayzum said, sounding like a carnival barker.
He calls himself “an eternal optimist,” then added: “Anything is possible. It truly is. This is being done all over the country.”
There certainly have been success stories in Butler County downtowns.
“People are coming back,” he said of Middletown’s downtown, noting 30 businesses have recently opened.
But, he was asked, wouldn’t it be easier to bring in a wrecking ball?
“You are letting a legacy go,” he said. “You are letting a landmark go.”
You can’t argue with a man in love.