Mitchell Public Library
Charles Tennant Mitchell, who had come to Michigan from New York State in 1838, worked for three years with the construction of the Michigan Southern Railroad from Adrian to Hillsdale. He moved to Hillsdale in 1843, building a warehouse plus a hardware store, along the railroad tracks. Involved in a number of lucrative enterprises with friends Henry Waldron and John Potter Cook, Mitchell did especially well in Railroad forwarding and in the banking business. See Charles T. Mitchell under People.
The Mitchells moved their original house to the back of their property (a not uncommon practice in those days), where it still stands. Their home was bequeathed to the City according to the will of Mr. Mitchell, giving his wife a life lease. C.T. died in 1898, and Mrs. Mitchell eight years later. Following her death, a two year renovation was begun, using $10,000 in securities also gifted to cover the expenses. There was a pause in renovations, since the amount willed would not cover the planned renovations.
The surviving children, William Mitchell of Cadillac, and Mrs. Harriett Mitchell Sawyer, who lived next door, donated additional funds, so that the remodeling could be completed “perfectly in accordance with the whole architectural plan.” The total amount was never made public. The original central staircase was moved and one fireplace removed. The butternut woodwork was preserved, and some decorative tile work – with Pewabic Tile from Detroit – was done.
The gala grand opening of the Mitchell Public Library was held on July 15, 1908.
The new Library, in 1908, boasted a men’s “club room” inside the north door, where gentlemen could read, rest, and smoke. The second floor held the auditorium where Women’s Clubs could meet. This space later became the children’s room and a place for musical recitals. Today it holds the extensive genealogical library of the Mitchell Research Center, a non-profit organization associated with the Hillsdale Community Library. The third floor, the “Library Loft,” was adapted for use by community members as a ballroom for dances and card parties. Kitchen facilities were installed in the former servant’s quarters in the rear of the third floor. For many years, local Christmas parties, like those of the Hillsdale Daily News, were held in “the Loft.”
The Ladies Library Association, formed in Hillsdale in 1879, donated their inventory of 2666 volumes
In 1908, the new library was said to be the finest library in the state for a town of this size. The ornate building, with its marble fireplace, ornate ceilings and beautiful woodwork, would serve our community for the next 95 years, before the Hillsdale Community Library, designed to match much of the Mitchell Building’s Italianate details, was built next door.
The old building remains standing straight and tall, with a plethora of stories to tell!
- Carol A. Lackey