Hoyt Library History
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. While Jesse Hoyt of New York was never a permanent resident of this city that he influenced so profoundly, few people 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. In 1849, with Norman Little as agent, 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, 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.
Hoyt’s 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 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 Jesse 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 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.
Hoyt Public 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 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 Hoyt 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 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 Hoyt Library $35,000 as the first installment of a $105,000 sum for the construction of an addition to Hoyt Library for the use of the East Side Public Library. In that same year, the East Side Public Library took up temporary quarters on the second floor of the Hoyt Library 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 almost an exact replica of the Norman porch and staircase in the close at the Canterbury Cathedral in England. 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, 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.
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, 1977 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 1979 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 so that 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 and 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 six computer workstations on child-sized furniture. All areas of the library received new carpet, reflecting the Victorian motif, and sturdy, attractive new shelving replaced old wooden shelves that were split and unstable. Hoyt 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.
Public library services in Saginaw's west side began in 1836 when the first school in the city was built. Space was provided in the school for a public library, which was begun with donated books. After some difficult beginnings, the West Side Public Library was reestablished in 1857. During the next sixty years, the West Side Public Library was located in several sites, including Central School, Arthur Hill High School, and John Moore School. It was operated by the Union School District.
In 1913, William S. Fish donated $30,000 to build a library as a memorial to his wife, Mary, and her father Myron Butman. "Gentlemen - I have in mind some kind of memorial for my late wife, Mary P. Fish, and her father, the late Myron Butman, to be known as the 'Butman-Fish Memorial' and am inclined to do so in the way of a library building for the Union School District..."
Located on the corner of Harrison and Hancock Streets, Butman-Fish Library served the public from 1916 to 1978. By the mid-1970's, the original building was overcrowded and in poor repair. The Library Commission and the Saginaw School District made plans to replace it with a much larger facility. The present Butman-Fish Library opened in January 1979 and serves as an active community library with an extensive program of children's services. In 1998, Butman-Fish Library was extensively renovated to accommodate modern library technology, make general building repairs, and make the library more handicapped-accessible.
During World War I, Butman-Fish was closed for several weeks because of a fuel shortage and the influenza epidemics. Books were collected to be sent to soldier's camps and hospitals.
In 1926, following the consolidation of Saginaw's school districts, the Butman-Fish Memorial Library, Hoyt Public Library, and the East Side Public Library were merged as the Public Libraries of Saginaw.
During the Depression, staff salaries were cut by 50 percent, but they were always paid on time and in cash. No new books were bought. Butman-Fish Library closed on Thursdays.
During World War II, the Victory Book Drive, under the direction of Mrs. Emilie Kahan, reference librarian at Butman-Fish Library, was responsible for collecting 3,484 usable books.
In 1972, Butman-Fish Library and Claytor Library were closed and Hoyt Library's hours were reduced because of the Public Libraries of Saginaw's financial situation. The library's first operating millage was approved by Saginaw voters in November, 1972.
In 1979, the new Butman-Fish Library opened at its present location. Constructing and furnishing the library cost $660,000, with most of the funding being provided by a federal public works grant.
In 1998, Butman-Fish Library was extensively renovated to accommodate modern library technology, make general building repairs, and make the library more handicapped accessible.
Ruth Brady Wickes Library was dedicated on October 2, 1983. It continues a tradition of library services in South Side Saginaw, which began in 1911 with a small collection of books for children and adults in a classroom of the Washington School. This was enlarged as the South Saginaw Branch in 1927 and continued in operation until 1953 when a fire in the school forced it to close. The library bookmobile served the neighborhood until 1967 when the South Jefferson Branch was opened. A generous grant from the Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Foundation enabled the library to build the Wickes Library in 1982-83. Since then, the library has become a busy neighborhood library with an emphasis on programs and services for young people.
Zauel Memorial Library
Starting from humble beginnings in the basement of the Saginaw Township Hall, the Zauel Memorial Library has grown with the township to become a busy, service-oriented community center that offers the latest in both information and technology.
Saginaw Township opened its first modern day library facility in October of 1967 when the west end of the new Township Hall was designated as a branch of the Public Libraries of Saginaw. The Township contracted with the Public Libraries of Saginaw to run the library, an agreement which still stands today.
In 1975, the popularity of the facility far outdistanced any estimates and plans were drawn up to begin construction of a separate facility. The new 8,285 square foot facility opened to the public on June 1, 1976 and offered such services as story times, service to shut-ins, lunch programs, and reference service by telephone (a new concept at the time!).
In 1980, voters approved a .5-mil levy to fund a library addition which doubled the size of the existing facility. The addition, which provided meeting rooms, a separate children's room, typing rooms, and a quiet study room, opened in the spring of 1982. New furnishings included one-of-a-kind movable shelving, made up in part with motorcycle chains and sports car steering wheels.
In the 1990's and beyond, the library continues to change with the times and provides a wide variety of services which now include public computers, access to the Internet, Makerspace rooms, a recently renovated meeting room, as well as traditional services and programs.