Fun times with the Morristown library!

Morristown Library. There she is.

When I first saw the Morristown library, I stopped dead in front of it, because it reminded me so much of some building at my college.

(Turned out, I was wrong, but just so you know where I was coming from, here’s the Morristown library…
Morristown Library, with some ugly cars in front of it. Well, I think they're ugly now. In 20 years, they'll be retro and cool.


…and here’s the main gate at my alma mater, blatantly yanked from Wikipedia.)
Vassar's Main Gate


Turns out, the 1917 library is in fact “collegiate Gothic,” so it probably looks like some building at EVERY college. (To be really specific, according to an architect-type I know, it is “English Perpendicular Gothic style… a common derivative of Collegiate Gothic [personal correspondence, 2011].”) It was designed by Edward Lippincott Tilton {Wikipedia], who had a hand in designing Ellis Island. Additions have been subsequently added in 1933, 1987, and 2006.

Morristown Library, 1918

But enough about the architecture. The library exploded last year!

On Monday, May 3, 2010, just minutes before the library was supposed to open at 9a.m., a bomb-like explosion ripped through the Morristown library’s basement.

Here’s a run-down of some of the damage, just so you don’t think I’m exaggerating (as I sometimes do):

An 8-inch-thick concrete first floor slab heaved upward and cleaved; walls buckled; furniture was blown apart; interior and exterior doors were blown off hinges; windows were shattered; books and materials were mangled and strewn about and a water pipe burst (Lockwood, 2010b, para. 4).

Incredibly, nobody was injured in the massive blast. To keep it that way, the library, which was deemed “unsafe for human occupation (Lockwood, 2010b, para. 8),” was completely closed to the public for eight months. The old 1918 section received the worst of the damage, and as of this writing, it remains closed off.

What makes things even more interesting—the exact cause of the explosion remains murky. Not quite a month after the explosion, a Jersey Central Power and Light representative said that the explosion was caused by “a combustible gas (Paik, 2010, para. 1)”; eight months later, “the state’s Board of Public Utilities [was] still investigating what caused the explosion (Goldberg, 2011, para. 9).”

And—the intrigue continues—underground explosions have plagued downtown Morristown at least eight times over the past 20 years. That averages out to almost biannually, but three of them happened less than a year apart. How often does your town explode?



Goldberg, D. (2011). “Morristown library reopens 8 months after explosion.”

Lockwood, J. (2010a). “Morristown library is damaged by underground explosions.”

Lockwood, J. (2010b). “Morristown library explosion damage is worse than expected, may force months-long closure.”

The Morristown and Morris Township Library. (n.d.). “About Us.”

New Jersey Historic Trust. (2010). “Morristown Library.”

Paik, E. (2010). “Morristown underground blast was caused by combustible gas, JCP&L says.”

Williams, J.M. (1996). Images of America: Morristown. Arcadia Publishing: Dover, NH. ISBN 0752402072.


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