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By Mary Irwin, libraries   Date: 1/7/10 Bookmark and Share

Neilson Browsing Room Rug Still Strong After 55 Years

When Neilson Library re-opened its doors this week, there was a notable stillness throughout the building, a stark contrast to the intense end-of-semester activity just two weeks ago.

Steve Omartian (on left) and Cecil Hector stitch fresh patches into the Neilson Browsing Room rug.

But all week long in the Browsing Room, two carpet specialists work diligently to repair the great Persian Mahal rug that has adorned the floor since 1955. Originally purchased for $2,750 from Toros Omartian & Sons of Springfield, the rug has been maintained ever since by three generations of the Omartian family and their employees. To replace the rug with one of similar quality and dimensions would cost $70,000 today, estimates Steve Omartian, who now runs the flooring company.

Omartian and his employee, Cecil Hector, are busy patching and sewing holes worn into the 40-foot rug, beginning at one end and intending to reach the other end by Friday.

The Neilson Browsing Room rug was originally 44 feet long, Omartian explains—too big for the room. A 4- by 20-foot remainder that had been cut from the original rug has been used to make repairs for more than 50 years. The remainder looks like new compared to the rest of this high-traffic rug. If you look closely, you will notice the brighter colors in the areas that have been repaired.

As the men sew—Steve with red thread and Cecil with white—Cecil tells of how he came to work for Omartian. It’s the only job he has held since he immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in 1981.

With a background in shoe making, he arrived in Springfield and was encouraged to go to the unemployment office to look for work. Steve Omartian had just called in a request for someone to repair carpets. Cecil was instructed to walk the few blocks to Omartian’s, where his neat handiwork was recognized at once.

Steve smiles as he remembers his aunt, a longtime employee, pointing out that Cecil’s stitches were straighter and neater even than hers. After a short trial period, Cecil was offered the job and has sewn many carpets and rugs since.

The Neilson Browsing Room rug is his latest project.

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