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Averill Block
Early History of Bay County Public Library by Isabele A. Ballou (about 1946)
  • Contributed by Tom Birch who transcribed the document into digital format. (July 2003)

  • View west on Center ave. Averill building is on n.s. bet. Water & Washington.

    However, in spite of the split between the two classes of members, the Library from the beginning was well patronized and popular. Outside of saloons, it was the only place in the little city, where people could gather casually and talk – that is the members of the association. Soon there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction because of the exclusion from the public room of persons who did not belong to the Library Association. The Trustees themselves came to the conclusion that the free use of the sheriff’s office for the benefit of a private organization was inappropriate, to say the least, so they canvassed the empty rooms in the business section for a suitable library room. They decided that a room in the Captain Averill Block, at the foot of Center Street, was the best location available. It was centrally located, and had splendid views from its windows, and the only objection was that it was in the second story and patrons would have to climb a long flight of stairs to reach it. There was no ground floor room to be had, so they accepted it and made the most of its possibilities. The Trustees ordered gas lamps to be installed, new book cases to be bought, and Japanese matting laid on the floors, and provided a dozen comfortable chairs. Notices were published in the papers seeking members to return books so they could be mended and cleaned. As they came in the books were mended by volunteers, ladies who were friends of the Library Association. Only three books were really lost. Several months were used to renovate the book stack and the Library for the time being ceased to circulate books.

    Late in 1871, the collection was moved into its new quarters. At the annual meeting of the Association, Mr. Braddock was thanked for his voluntary services as custodian of the Library and was presented with a perpetual membership and fifty dollars.

    The Trustees thereupon engaged a lady as librarian. Mrs. Helen Raymond Ferris, a daughter of Colonel Henry Raymond, an outstanding civil war veteran. She was well known and liked and her social talents and business sense were helpful at this stage of the library’s development.

    At the next annual meeting of the Association, held February 12, 1872, Mr. Hershel H. Hatch, later circuit judge, in giving his report as president of the Association, had this to say about the Averill Block room and the new librarian.

    “From the large and commodious room, new in use, we have derived a benefit not anticipated at the time the change was determined upon. The fact of our having extra space has suggested its use for other than strictly library purposes and under the management of our efficient and capable librarian, a series of socials has been carried on. Precisely how profitable they were I have not yet been informed. But that they were pleasant and entertaining I have not a doubt. One fruit of the enterprise may be found now hanging on the walls of our room in the very excellent pictures copied from Thorwaldsen’s marbles. If we were able to add to their number and variety it would be money well spent”.

    The Library room was a cozy place. Its huge slab burning stove was presided over by the perfect janitor, Henry Sims, who for his services the first years was paid $25.00. The comfortable chairs, the good gas lamps, the decorative pictures on the walls, the gracious and handsome lady at the desk, made a combination that found favor with the members. When the Averill Block, along with the other Water Street property was demolished to make room for Wenonah Park, even though the Library had moved from its pleasant home many years before, the Library room was still vivid in the minds of the old residents. Today on the walls of the Library now in its permanent home, hang the six lithographs, Day and Night, and The Four Seasons, by Thorwaldsen, which were the fruit of Mrs. Ferris’ social seventy years ago.

    The library stayed in the Averill Block more than six years. Even with their small fund to spend for books, volumes accumulated amazingly. The book cases were overcrowded. It was impossible to keep the books shelved. The room that had seemed large and commodious to Mr. Hatch in 1871 was found to be too small. Mr. Hatch, when still the president came to the conclusion that new quarters must be found. He was apprehensive about fire too, and very anxious to have a first floor location. The Library could not progress under the conditions in the Averill block, he said, and urged the trustees to get together and do anything necessary to procure suitable quarters. Again the gentlemen surveyed the whole city and learned for the third time that there was nothing available which was suitable. They would have to build their home. A building committee was appointed, the chairman of which was Henry M. Fitzhugh. Before this committee produced results however, a great change took place in the library organization. By that we mean the merging of the privately owned Bay City Library Association with the library interests of the Bay City Board of Education in order to establish a real public library.

    Page 2: Sheriff's Office Page 4: Bay City Public Library

    Bay City Library Association Menu
    1. Introduction, The Beginning
    2. Sheriff's Office
    3. Averill Building
    4. Bay City Public Library
    5. Eickemeyer Building
    6. Woods Opera House
    7. City Hall
    8. The Permanent Building
    9. Extension of Library Services
    {View Map/Directory}
    Names Referenced
    Averill, Capt.
    Ferris, Helen (Raymond), Mrs.
    Fitzhugh, Henry M.
    Hatch, Hershel H. (Judge)
    Raymond, Henry
    Simms, Henry
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City Board of Education
    Wenonah Park

    Averill Building
    [View full size]

    Judge Hershel A Hatch
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