Rochester had a banner year in 1961. Not only did the population continue to expand, but the community grew in areas of culture, education and the arts, too.
Rochester's growth was similar to what the nation was experiencing that year — significant cultural and societal changes were occurring in areas like politics, arts and entertainment.
In the midst of the growth and changes, three Rochester institutions were formed: the Friends of the , the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and .
For five decades, they have served the community well through their promotion of literacy, culture and education.
This week, we'll take a closer look at all three.
A Friend in need
In 1949, funds from the estate of Eva Woodward Parker helped build Rochester’s first public library building. It was designed by Detroit architect William Edward Kapp, who also designed Meadow Brook Hall, and built on the northeast corner of Fifth (University) and Pine streets in downtown Rochester. Completed in 1951, the building was named the Woodward Memorial Public Library in Parker’s honor.
Ten years later, in January 1961, a citizens group approached the library’s board of trustees with a proposal to form a volunteer organization to help financially support the library and broaden its appeal in the community.
Calling themselves the Friends of the Woodward Memorial Public Library, they believed they could help:
- Strengthen the relationship between the library and its patrons.
- Promote knowledge and interest in the library.
- Raise funds.
- Assist in extending and improving library services and resources.
The board agreed and the Friends group was born. Charter members included Catherine Benson, the Rev. Lloyd Buss, Arthur Cox, Lou Ann Dennis, Edward Donnelly, Margaret Duffield, Jody Headlee, Harlan Johnson, Susan Kjellberg, Kathleen McGehee, Roberta Runser, Leona Schrader and David Wilder.
Over the next five decades, the organization raised funds through membership fees and donations to purchase books, book covers, magazine subscriptions, furniture for the children’s room and more. For nearly 40 years, the Friends group has hosted a that draws book enthusiasts from all over to purchase used paperbacks and hardcovers in a range of topics – from cooking and geography to history and romance novels and everything in between, as well as used music CDs, movies and computer games.
In 1999, the library moved to its new home on Olde Town Road. Over the years, its name changed, too, from Woodward Memorial to Avon Township and, finally, . The Friends changed their name as well.
Friends celebrate history
Today, the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library continues its mission and dedication to connect the library with its patron and raise funds with events, book sales and a gift shop.
In celebration of their five decades of volunteerism, the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library are hosting a The event will be held at the library, where the upper floor will be converted into a dance floor, and will include a strolling supper, music, silent auction and dancing to the big band sounds of Planet D Nonet.
According to a press release issued by the Friends group, the evening will begin “the moment guests arrive at the library” when they will be greeted and handed a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider before they begin their walk down the red carpet to the library entrance.
The golden gala is one of several events the Friends group has planned for their anniversary year.
“We want to include families and children as well,” Friends president Kathy Dorn said in the press release. Throughout the year, “there will be an ice cream social, a family picnic and a very special Christmas event for children, as well as our Holiday Home Tour with a wonderful collection of homes."
Tickets to the 50th Anniversary Gala are $75 per person or $140 per couple, of which $25/$50 is tax deductible.
Reservations can be made at the Friends Store in the library or by calling the Friends events line at 248-650-7176. Store hours are Monday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; 6 – 8 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Later this week: A look at 50 years of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and McGregor Elementary.