The Early Years
The first documented library in the Rochester area was founded in 1872 by the Rochester Literary Society. This Society, which sought to promote the enjoyment of books, was followed by the Rochester Literary and Library Association (1873-1876), the Rochester Lecture and Library Association (1877-1881), and the Avon Ladies Library Association (1882-1908).
The Avon Ladies Library Association operated for twenty-six years as a corporation, selling shares of stock and charging membership fees and annual dues. The corporation dissolved in 1908. Ten years later, the Rochester Women’s Club opened a library in the Rosso Building on Main Street.
The Rochester Women’s Club recognized the need for public support of a library, and was able to obtain passage of a millage to support the establishment of the Avon Township Free Public Library. The library opened on February 7, 1925, in the Rochester National Bank Building (Fourth Street at Main).
The Library at 210 West University Drive
Four years later, the library moved to the former C. K. Griggs residence, a two-story brick home at 210 West University Drive. In 1951, the library moved temporarily to the American Legion Hall to await construction of the first library building, also at 210 W. University Drive. This building was a gift of Eva Woodward Parker. In 1962, the building was expanded with an endowment from the Grace Currey estate.
The final and largest addition in 1976 increased the size of the library to 25,000 square feet. When Avon Township became the City of Rochester Hills in 1984, the Avon Township Public Library changed its name to the City of Rochester Hills Public Library.
During the 1980’s, it became apparent that the library needed to keep up with the growth of the community around it.
Current Library (1992-present)
The history of the site of the new library dates back to the time when Chippewa Indians lived in the area. Forests of oak and maple sheltered deer, wolves, and other animals hunted by the Indians. Three streams provided fish. Indians camped on the hills above the rivers so they would be free from the mosquitoes swarming around the water.
At the turn of the century, Frank Dahlmann tried unsuccessfully to cultivate a sugar beet industry in what was at that time a field. Later Charles and William Chapman, owners of the Western Knitting Mills on Water Street, created Chapman Pond by damming up Paint Creek. The site upon which the library now stands was actually an island where Boy Scouts camped, giving it the name Scout Island.
In 1946, one of the worst floods in Rochester’s history destroyed the dam and emptied the pond. The dam was never rebuilt and the former lake bottom was filled with sand and gravel from a pit at the end of old Baldwin Street.
The new library at 500 Olde Towne Road was dedicated November 1, 1992, and opened the next day for regular service.
It is a 70,000 square foot building situated on the edge of the Rochester’s central business district. The Paint Creek and the Paint Creek Trail border the building on the north and east edges. The Post Office and some Rochester businesses border the building on the south and west.
The library was designed by Jim Mumby of TMP Associates, Inc. of Bloomfield Hills and constructed by Frank Rewold & Son, Inc. of Rochester. The exterior design of the new building, and the use of stone and red brick, recall the architecture of the old mills that are a part of Rochester’s history. Bay windows, also an historic recall, are located on the north side of the building to take advantage of the scenic views of the Paint Creek.
The Woman's National Farm & Garden Association, Rochester Branch, has planted annuals on the library grounds for many years. In special honor of the new library, they purchased the Camperdown elm tree that can be seen in front of the auditorium of the new building. These special trees are specially grafted with a technique that puts the root system of the tree on top, giving the tree its distinctive shape. The library had originally hoped to move the Camperdown elms from the old location, but the cost of $25,000 per tree and the risk of destroying the trees was too great. Instead, the library retained the pen and ink sketch of one of the trees as its official logo instead.
The fact that the Rochester Hills Public Library is located in the City of Rochester and equally serves the residents of Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township can be confusing. The library serves Rochester and Oakland Township through contracts. All three communities contribute one mil toward the operation of the library.
In the tradition of all of the Rochester libraries that came before, our current library stands as a testimony to the Rochester area’s commitment to knowledge and the value of information. Those who live or work in Rochester, Rochester Hills, or Oakland Township have access to books, magazines, DVDs, videos, compact discs, audiocassettes, playaways, video games, and e-books. We also have computers with Internet access, plus wireless access for your laptop.