News Wheaton

Norton’s Old Library – New Beginnings

The Old Library, previously Norton’s only library, was sold and is being renovated – and will hopefully be a business boom. 

In 1886, Eliza B. Wheaton, whom our school is named after, announced to the town of Norton that she’d be donating a library to them. In a letter from the Norton Historical Society archives, she wrote, “I, Eliza B. Wheaton… have caused to be erected a building on a certain lot of land, … which is adapted and furnished for use as a public library and reading room.” In 1888, she presented the Norton Public Library to the town and to Wheaton College, which, at the time, was an all-women’s institution. 

About a century later, in 1989, a new, more modern library was built, which now sits next to the gazebo on Main Street. 

The old library was on the market for 20 days, from April 9 to April 29, 2021 for $400,000, and was sold by realtor Ed Tartufo to a father/son duo from Easton for $375,000.

Ed Tartufo works in the Jack Conway firm in Mansfield. When asked about any other involvement in the sale, he mentioned that he would be fulfilling the wishes of former Wheaton College President Dennis Hanno. “[He] wanted very much to have some type of coffee shop close to the campus that students could spend time.” 

Dennis Hanno, associate clinical professor at Fordham University and former president of Wheaton College, was the original brains behind any ideas related to future developments of the property. “I participated in several conversations while president about how to create a more lively Norton downtown close to campus,” Hanno said.

In the hopes of creating a more lively town environment, the Town of Norton has implemented a new District plan called the Village Center Core (VCC). With that in mind, Tartufo reached out to a family in Easton that he’s worked with a few times before: Chris Pernock and his son, Kyle Pernock.

The Easton renovators explained that they took a risk  by purchasing the library. “We renovate houses into condos in the area, but we’ve never undergone the process of restoring historic buildings,” Chris said.

Normally, renovating houses or other properties is straightforward. With buildings in historic districts, however, the reconstructions must fit within the guidelines of what the building originally looked like and how it was built. 

Over the phone, for instance, Kyle Pernock mentioned that one of the trickier aspects of the build was the restoration of every window. “Originally, we were going to replace them with the same type of pane and make it look exactly like the originals, but the window sills were too delicate, so rather than replacing the whole thing, we refurbished them to their authentic state,” he said.

Despite the complicated procedures, however, the building is expected to be completely restored by the end of May, according to Tartufo. Though it won’t be open to the public at that time, both Ed, Chris, and Kyle will undergo the search for tenants who are looking to use the space for public consumerism. 

Although the original library was a gift from Eliza Wheaton, the current property is “unlikely to have any relationship with the college,” according to current President Michaele Whelan.