Monday & Thursday: 12:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday & Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Phone: (989) 755-0904
Fax: (989) 755-9829
505 Janes Avenue
Saginaw, MI 48607
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The Hoyt Public Library of Saginaw was a gift to the city of Saginaw (then East Saginaw) by one of its most prominent citizens. Jesse Hoyt of New York was never a permanent resident of this city that he influenced so profoundly, but no one did more to promote its creation and growth. Jesse Hoyt's father, James M., and his four brothers were partners in their extensive Saginaw investment. With Norman Little as agent, in 1849, they purchased a substantial portion of East Saginaw. First Alfred (a son) and then Jesse took charge of the family interest in East Saginaw. Soon they were involved in every aspect of East Saginaw's economy - lumber, railroads, salt, banking and buildings (among them the Bancroft House, the Buena Vista Block, the Exchange Block and many others). Although these projects added to the great wealth of Jesse Hoyt, yet in many instances he put his own interests below the welfare of the community, and risked his own money to help and bolster the well-being of this, his favorite city, which he visited periodically.
His last visit to Saginaw was in 1877; after that ill health prevented his return. With the advice and counsel of his Saginaw attorney, William L. Webber, prominent businessman, scholar and politician, he drafted a will with bequests to the city of East Saginaw. One of these was the sum of $100,000 for the establishment of a library on a site owned by Mr. Hoyt. He purposely limited the amount so that the citizens would have to contribute to the support of the library if they really wanted it to flourish. The will was executed in June, 1882, and Mr. Hoyt died August 12, 1882. Among the provisions for the establishment of the library were stipulations that it be for consultation and reference only, and that it always bear the name Hoyt Public Library. A Board of Trustees consisting of prominent East Saginaw citizens was appointed and the search for an architect and plan for the library building was initiated. With $56,000 (a considerable amount in that long-ago era) at their disposal, the trustees visited libraries in many parts of the Middle West, and held a competition among architects for a suitable design. The aid of Frederick Poole, then at the Chicago Public Library, and one of the outstanding librarians in the United States, was solicited to help in choosing the best of the submitted plans. Among the prominent architects who took part in the competition was H.H. Richardson, one of the most popular and widely acclaimed architects of that day, whose distinctive style marked many public buildings, churches, and libraries. However, Frederick Poole was not an admirer of Richardson's libraries. He claimed they were too monumental, wasteful of space and not functional as libraries, and he was instrumental in rejecting Richardson's proposed design for the Hoyt Library. (Richardson then submitted the same plan to New Orleans, where it was accepted for their Public Library building. This design was the last major architectural work of Richardson; he died soon after.) The Hoyt Project was then awarded to the firm of Van Brunt and Howe of Boston. They kept many of the typical Richardson features: the heavy Romanesque exterior, the large limestone blocks, the red sandstone trim, etc. Consequently, the building today is almost considered to be an H.H. Richardson creation. Students researching Richardson's work usually include it as an interesting tangent of the famous architect's heritage. Work on the building was begun in 1887. The principal construction material for the outer walls was Bay Port limestone from the Bay Port quarries near the tip of Michigan's "Thumb" area. A special railroad was constructed to bring the stone to East Saginaw. The limestone was the gift of Wm. Webber. Lake Superior quarries supplied the red sandstone used for exterior trim. The Library was opened to the public on November 1, 1890. In 1888, on the recommendation of Frederick Poole, Miss Harriet Ames was hired as librarian. She had worked with Poole at the Boston Athenaeum and he considered her to be one of the most talented and competent librarians in the country, ideally suited to the acquisition and cataloging of books for the new library.
The entrance to the Hoyt Library at the corner of Jefferson and Janes Avenues, was through a large porch decorated with arches and columns of carved red sandstone. The interior wood was entirely of oak, used extensively for paneling, ceiling beams, and mantels as befitted a building in the great lumbering center of Saginaw. The main reading room had pillars and a large fireplace. From it extended many smaller rooms, used as offices, meeting rooms, and a book processing area. To the north was a rounded room suitable as a reading room and for exhibits. The stack area was to the east of the main reading room. A beautiful oak staircase led from the vestibule to the second floor lecture hall and two small rooms, a trustee's meeting room and a study room. All doors and windows were decorated with hinges, locks, and doorknobs of hand-crafted iron and brass. The building retained its original form until the post-World War I years. By that time the seemingly generous amount pledged by the Hoyt will and the Hoyt heirs was inadequate for the continued operation of the Library. The East Side Public Library, under the direction of the East Side Board of Education, was also experiencing difficulties. This library was located on the second floor of a building on Jefferson Avenue, just a block north of the Hoyt Library.
By 1917 these facilities were much too small and limited and the Board of Education had set aside a library fund of $50,000 for the purpose of building a new public library on the East Side. However, it was soon recognized that the most practical solution for both libraries was to combine their resources in one building. Accordingly, in 1919 negotiations for the merger were completed. In April 1920 the Board of Education paid the trustees of the Hoyt Library $35,000 as the first installment of a $105,000 sum for the construction of an addition to the Hoyt Library for the use of the Public Library. In that same year the Public Library took up temporary quarters on the second floor of the Hoyt building. Edward L. Tilton of New York City was the architect chosen to prepare plans for the addition, and on May 21, 1921 the building contract was awarded to Spence Brothers of Saginaw. The total cost of remodeling, improvements, equipment and repair of the building, originally estimated at $150,000 was $143,314. Of this amount $45,000 was paid from Hoyt Library funds, while the remainder was paid by the Board of Education as rental. Fortunately, the addition could be constructed of the same materials that had been used in the original building.
The Lake Superior quarries source of the red sandstone had been depleted long ago, but a supply of the stone, already quarried, was located. Also, although the Bay Port quarries were closed, the Bay Port limestone was acquired from a building which was being torn down. The main feature of the new addition consisted of a large reference room on the east side of the library with stacks in the basement. What had been the stack area of the original Hoyt Library became the circulation room with the public card catalog. A three-level stack was added on the north side of this area to provide space for the public library book collection. The former Hoyt main reading room became the children's room. A new entrance was constructed on Janes Avenue to provide a more central approach to the library. It was al- most an exact replica of the Norman porch and staircase in the close at the Canterbury Cathedral in England. Sometime in the early 1930's the original entrance was closed to the public. An error in the construction of the original building was rectified at this time. The large room on the second floor, intended for use as a lecture and concert hall with a seating capacity of about one hundred had never been satisfactory. Because of its high peaked ceiling with massive wooded beams, the acoustics were very poor and it was almost impossible to use it. A new lower ceiling was installed to remedy the situation. After struggling through the Great Depression of the 1930's and the World War II years, a period of increased use but low library funding, the library reflected the surge of community growth of the 1950's, both in population and the economy. Once again the Hoyt Library was bursting at the seams, and in the late years of the decade plans were formulated for another addition to extend the building on its east facade - the only space available for expansion. A brochure published at that time supplies background information on the proposed construction: The architectural firm of Frederick Wigen was chosen to carry out the project. The plans called for an addition containing some 11,000 square feet. This included a balcony in the reference room to provide needed space in the older building. But when the bids were opened it was found that the original estimates were far too low, and the balcony was one of the changes that had to be postponed for some future date.
The problem of enlarging the Hoyt Library building had taken under consideration for several years. In 1948 the University of Chicago survey recommended that the present building be abandoned and that a new building be constructed elsewhere. The Trustees had not approved this recommendation because of the aesthetic and economic desirability of retaining the present Saginaw landmark as long as it was structurally sound; because of the provisions in the bequest which prohibit the trustees from disposing of the property if they so desired; and because of the questionable feasibility of attempting to raise $1,000,000 which would be necessary to replace the present building with the required space.
Since the Bay Port stone was no longer available and the cost of the original type of construction would have been astronomical, the Trustees and the architects agreed that it would be better to construct a contemporary style addition. The cost was $240,000 financed through an accumulated building reserve, corporate and individual gifts, and a loan from the endowment fund to be repaid from future income. The exterior construction was of beige brick. A series of rounded arches formed the roof of the new building and effectively linked it to the Romanesque arches of the old structure. The new addition housed the processing department, the business and director's offices, and a reading area with added space for the adult book collection. A lower level area contained an enlarged and attractive children's department. The old catalog room, now vacated, was remodeled to become the Local History and Genealogical Collection and Genealogy Room. This attractive renovation was made possible through a generous gift of $25,000 from the C.K. Eddy Family Memorial Fund. The new addition was completed in 1960.
In 1976 a successful millage campaign provided sufficient funds to realize a much-needed renovation for the interior of the entire library. Every nook and cranny from basement to attic was given a fresh coat of paint, some necessary repairs were accomplished, and the postponed balcony finally became a reality in the reference room. The completion of the renovation was celebrated with an open house on May 22, l977 and attracted more than 500 admiring guests. Due in a large extent to the interest in preserving worthy buildings sparked by the Bicentennial Celebration, the area of Saginaw in which Hoyt Library stands was designated a Downtown Historic District in l979 by the State of Michigan. In that same year the library building was nominated to the federal National Register Historic Preservation Grant Program. Because of funds available through these programs it was possible to clean, repair and renovate the exterior walls of the building. In the 1980's, approaching its 100th year of service, the Hoyt Library building saw some more changes. A computerized public catalog was installed and an alarm system kept the building and its contents secure. The crumbling front steps were replaced with marble to last another century. The building and its materials were made accessible to handicapped citizens through construction of a ramp and a new elevator. The roof was restored and repaired and a parking lot was purchased. In 1991-1994, a small project to renovate four rooms on the second floor of Hoyt Library gave a preview of the beauty and functionality that a full renovation could bring. The Eddy Historical and Genealogical Collection, one of the finest local history and genealogical collections in Michigan, was now showcased in the beautifully renovated rooms, which featured restored oak beams in the high ceiling, and an elegant Victorian color scheme. This $400,000 project, funded entirely through grants and private donations, added the electrical heating and mechanical improvements needed to create a temperature- and humidity-controlled climate for these unique historical materials.
In August, 1994, the library separated from the public schools to become an independent district library. In November of that year, the voters passed a millage increase for the Public Libraries of Saginaw, to be used in part to restore and improve library buildings. As a continuation of what began with the Eddy project, plans were drawn up for a major renovation of all parts of Hoyt Library - the first time in a century that such a complete renovation project had been undertaken. With money from the millage vote available and public support for renovation solidly evident, plans went forward to renovate Hoyt Library so that every square foot of space was as safe and efficient as possible, and the entire building would be capable of supporting modern technology. With the successful Eddy project to build on, plans were drawn up to create a space that would be beautiful, historically appropriate, and functional. In addition to public funds, generous contributions from area foundations, individuals and corporations funded over 25 percent of the $3,500,000 project. As the first total renovation of the building in 107 years, the project was a massive effort. The project design team included the Library Commission; Norman Maas, Nick Birkmeier and Marcia Warner from the library administration; John Meyer and Kenneth LeMiesz from Wigen, Ticknell, Meyer, and Associates, Inc., architects; Richard de Bear and Janet McClintock from Library Design Associates, Inc.; and Gary Warnke from Spicer Engineering Company, project manager. Under the direction of the general contractor, J.R. Heineman & Sons, Inc., and the design team, more than 100 skilled men and women from many fields combined their talents to achieve the goal. The huge stone foundation walls were repaired, waterproofed and protected with a special drainage system. An underground storage room was designed and built to house necessary maintenance equipment. More than 130 electrical and data outlets were added to allow for Internet and computer access, and 28 computer stations were added. Thirty-two fan coil and air handling units were installed to provide climate control; over 100,000 linear feet of new wiring was strung, replacing that which was old and frayed. Decorative plaster was carefully resculpted and restored. Over 500 new light fixtures were hung, achieving a blend of beauty and function. All staff work areas were modernized. Talented painters spent days on high scaffolding to create the graceful Victorian ceiling designs. The beautiful woodwork, much of which had been painted, was stripped, stained and refinished to restore the original character of the building. A state-of-the-art computer training center was created to serve both staff and patron training needs. In the freshly painted and refurnished reference room a large U- shaped block of 15 computer stations was made available for public use. The completely remodeled children's room featured space for 6 computer workstations on child-sized furniture. All areas of the library had new carpet reflecting the Victorian motif, and sturdy, attractive new shelving to replace old wooden shelves that were split and unstable. Hoyt Public Library, completely renovated for the first time in a century, continues to stand as a landmark - a visible sign of the strength, endurance and vision of the people of Saginaw.
Hoyt Library: Government Document Depository
Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program in the early 1800′s to provide access to Federal Government publications to the general public. There are now nearly 1,400 libraries in the United States which are designated Depository Libraries. Hoyt Public Library has been a Depository Library since 1890.