News & Politics

Arctic Blast Leads to Flooding of Georgetown Library

Water damaged a room housing the neighborhood's archives.

Photo by Flickr user Adam Fagen.

The Georgetown Neighborhood Library has been closed since last Friday when a pipe connected to its emergency sprinkler system burst in a top-floor room housing the DC Public Library’s archives of Georgetown’s history. Library spokesman George Williams tells Washingtonian the broken pipe is an effect of the current cold snap enveloping Washington.

Library officials are still assessing the damage to the Peabody Room, which contains papers, photos, and other artifacts dating back to Georgetown’s founding in 1751. Williams says at least one box of photographs and negatives was hit by the spewing pipe, but the age of the documents has not been confirmed yet. Contractors, delayed by the three-day weekend and yesterday’s snow day, are also checking over damage to the R Street library.

The Georgetown Neighborhood Library suffered a devastating fire in April 2007 sparked by a construction worker using a heat gun while working for a contractor that was renovating the 1935 Georgian revival mansion. It reopened in 2010 after a $23 million restoration.

UPDATE, 5:16 PM: Damage to the historic collection is “minimal,” and can be repaired, DC Public Library says in a press release. The third floor holding the archives, though took most of the brunt of the burst pipe, with the Peabody Room suffering water damage, along with walls on the second and first floors of the building. Library officials expect the branch to be closed for at least three weeks while repairs are made.

But that does not mean Georgetown Neighborhood Library patrons get a holiday on returning any outstanding books. The branch’s book drop remains open.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.