Saturday, May 1, 2010

This Month in Rochester History

During the month of May, we look back at a milestone event in the history of the Rochester Hills Public Library. The library's roots as a public institution go back to 1924, when it was established as the Avon Township Free Public Library, and was housed in a couple of different locations on Main Street before moving into the former Charles K. Griggs home at 210 W. Fifth Street (northeast corner of Pine) in 1928.

One of the library's principal supporters in those days was Eva Woodward Parker, the daughter of Rochester's pioneer farmer and former legislator, Lysander Woodward. When Eva Woodward Parker died in 1933, she left money to the library to be used for the construction of a new building. This project was started in 1949, and on May 30, 1951, fifty-nine years ago this month, dedication ceremonies were held for the new building on the former site of the Griggs residence at Fifth & Pine.

The new building was christened Woodward Memorial Library in honor of Eva Woodward Parker's family name. It was built by Frank Rewold and was designed by a prominent Detroit architect, William Edward Kapp. Kapp had worked for many years with the firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls (the former incarnation of today's SmithGroup, which is the longest continuously operating architectural firm in the United States). While working for Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, Kapp designed Meadow Brook Hall for Alfred and Matilda Wilson, and also designed the Wilson Theatre (known today as the Music Hall) in Detroit. Both of these structures are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kapp-designed library building in Rochester was expanded twice to accommodate the ever-growing collections and increasing demand for services. In 1992, the Rochester Hills Public Library moved to its current location on Old Towne Road and the Kapp building at 210 W. University was remodeled into boutique business suites.

This photo of the William E. Kapp-designed library building at 210 W. University was taken in 1985.

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