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Motor City Libraries

Part of Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America.
Or misplaced auto industry, in this case.

Some information from Terwilliger's Carnegie Libraries in Michigan, no longer online.
Other information from the DPL web site.

Gratiot and Farmer, Detroit
Glitterized Rotograph postcard of Detroit Public Library.

THE DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY, Situated at Gratiot Avenue and Farmer Street. Was built in 1875 and contains 200,000 volumes. It is conducted by a board, appointed by the Board of Education.

PSC Co. postcard.

1904 tinted Rotograph brand postcard.

If you can't tint it, throw glitter on it.

According to the DPL history page, this was built in 1877 and served until 1921.

This address seems to house a parking lot, but about 100 yards away (121 Gratiot) is the Skillman Branch Library, originally the Downtown Library. It houses the National Automotive History Collection, which might just be worth a second Detroit vacation.

Detroit Publishing 'Phos-tint' postcard of Library Park.

5201 Woodward Avenue, Detroit

The Detroit libraries (main library and six branches) received $750,000 of Carnegie monies. Initially the powers that be turned down the 'tainted' money.
I'm curious as to how the rest was spent.

With an opening date of March 21, 1921, the main library missed the Carnegie era by about 4 years.

Yet, it is still considered a Carnegie library today.


(L) Dated 1927-28-29, this Detroit Publishing 'Phos-tint' style postcard shows a romanticized view of the Library (or possibly a polluted one).

Two similar views.
(L) Metrocraft card, mailed in 1930, features a Cass Avenue view.
'From Aunt Eunice, in July 1942.'
The postcard is somewhat older than the date inscribed, showing the relationship of the Library to other sights on Woodward Avenue, one of Detroit's most famous thoroughfares.

This white-border era postcard also features the Belcrest Apts., plus the GM Office Building looming in the background.

(L) Colourpicture brand linen finish card.
(R) 1950 chrome finish view of the library.

(R) Curt Teich 'Curteichcolor Art-Creation,' from a color transparency by photographer Dick Koehler.


These cards typlify the glory years of Detroit, and of its Beaux Arts library building. During these boom years, expansion began to be needed. Comparing the size of this building to the 1875 building, it is not much larger. 1921 was a year with many smaller auto manufacturers. South Bend (Studebaker) or Kenosha (Rambler, Nash) might also have been considered automotive centers.

Still, there was a lack of foresight in the 1910s and early 1920s towards the future needs of the library. In 1963, an addition was made to the Cass Gilbert-designed building.

This is probably my favorite modern view of the library. I keep expecting Maxwell Smart to get out of the sports car.


The Detroit Public Library with its 28 branch libraries and more than 3 million books, maps and manuscripts is one of the great public libraries of the world. Its Main Library, in the Cultural Center, with fronts on Woodward Avenue and Cass Avenue, is a Show-place of Detroit.


Dexter Press postcard which sold at 5¢, or 6 for 25¢, dates to the 1960s.

Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Founded in 1865, the Library moved to this location in 1921. The handsome Italian Renaissance building, designed by Cass Gilbert, was greatly enlarged in 1963 by the addition of two wings. The Woodward Avenue entrance, with its arched loggia, faces the art museum, in the heart of the Cultural Center.

Detroit Main Library, Cass Avenue Entrance
(between W. Kirby and Putnam)
Detroit, Michigan
The Detroit Public Library, located in the Cultural Center, Provides comprehensive research and information services for individuals, business, industry, and labor in the Metropolitan Area. The new entrance features a brilliantly colored glass mosaic mural by Millard Sheets.

1964 Hiawatha Card of Detroit, by Dexter Press.

Larger view of the Cass Street entrance. Notice the gold leaf work and the handsome mural.

On the Rare Book Room (not a wine cellar) door are the names, and birth and death dates of famous printers. From the reverse of the Allen Stross card:

Black ebony doors incised in gold carry the names of renowned printers. The bronze fleur-de-lis grilles designed by the architect, Francis J. Keally, simulate the binding of a rare book. A collection of rare and historical landmarks in all fields of knowledge is housed in this room.

Branch No. 4 (John S. Gray Branch)

Architects of record: Malcomson and Higginbotham.

A 1914 document's information implies that this was not a Carnegie funded branch, but its OCR is spotty, at best.


Googling the library's address of 1117 Field Avenue shows that this building has been long abandoned and appears to be beyond saving. They didn't even bother boarding it up.

Scripps Library

Replaced by the Douglass Branch for Specialized Services in 1971.

The Scripps Library was donated in 1905 by George G. Booth as a bequest. The Detroit Public Library's site and a Detroit News article state that the former residence was demolished in 1966. However, some history blogs and fora claim that a fire was responsible.
In either case, this building does look like a firetrap once filled with books and papers.


The card is unattributed and misspells the library's name.

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