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Community History

Jul 17 2014

PreHistory—Farmington and The Defiance Moraine

Twelve thousand years ago the last glacier crept across the face of the land, piling up debris, carving lakes, rivers, and streams, altering the geography and determining the use of the land for centuries to come. Its changes can easily be seen in the Farmington area. As the glacier pushed through, it left piles of rubble in its wake, called moraines. The Defiance Moraine, so named because it runs to Defiance, Ohio, can be clearly seen from Twelve Mile Road, its Outer Ridge rising to Halsted, the Inner Ridge east of Drake Road.

As the glacier advanced and retreated, it carved what is now the Lake Erie Basin. Several lakes developed in this area, but they were not destined to remain. The beach ridge of four of these lakes can be seen as gently sloping elevations in the southeast portion of the Farmington area.  Most of the area is covered by glacial till, 100 to 200 feet thick, making it good farm land.

The Native-American Influence

Shortly after the glacier age ended, men began to populate the area. They had come from Siberia, across what was once a land bridge crossing the Bering Sea to Alaska. From Alaska the people fanned out over North America, one group settling eventually in and around Michigan. These people, the Potawatomi Indians, inhabited the lands now known as lower Michigan, northwestern Ohio, Indiana and northern Illinois. In the Farmington area it is believed they settled in the northwest section, near a lake known as Minnow Pond, now a treacherous marsh. The land surrounding Minnow Pond was fertile, encouraging agriculture; and an abundance of wildlife could be found, making this a hunting ground center. It is believed that the legend of the Potawatomi curtain originated at Minnow Pond.  The “curtain” was in legend the accumulated smoke of the many Indian hunters’ campfires that had burned at campsites on the ridge around the pond. In reality, the curtain is the night mist, settling over the valley and pond, enveloping the area in a smoky haze.

Evidence of the Potawatomi’s presence can still be seen, though it is fast disappearing. Indian remains and artifacts have been found on several farms and fields. The 1976 publication, Farmington: An Original Entity, Being the Natural History of Farmington—From Ice Age to Space Search, included mention of a large earth mound located about a mile west of Minnow Pond which was believed to contain ancient Indian artifacts. At that time, the University of Michigan had the option to exercise its digging rights for the contents. However, there is no record of such a digging expedition having taken place. A trail marker tree, which as a young tree was man-shaped into a U or Y to indicate an Indian trail, could for many years be seen at the southwest corner of Drake and Howard roads.

Farmington was the site of three Indian trails, the Orchard Lake Trail, the Grand River Trail and the Shiawassee Trail; each generally followed the now-used roads of the same name.

The Development of Commerce in the Farmington Area

The rapidly growing township was attractive to several types of business. As the area developed, the enterprises became more diverse in response to the changing needs of the residents.

The primary business of the first settlers was, of course, agriculture. Soon enterprising men put the Rouge River to work as saw mills and grist mills, much the same as those that were springing up all over Michigan. One of the first was Arthur Power’s Old Eagle Mill. Unfortunately, because of its location, the Old Eagle Mill was not very successful. The Rouge River was not strong enough to support a mill, especially in that part of the township. This, coupled with the fact that the engineering of the dam was not the best, meant that production was slow and unpredictable. A dry season halted operations altogether. As trees were cut, the soil lost its ability to retain water; the lower water table weakened the Rouge to the point where it was powerless. The mill fell victim to the very ecological conditions that it had helped to bring about.

The Steele Mill, known in the 1860’s as the Hardenburg Mill, with its better location on the Rouge, was a more successful venture. Built in Pernambuco Hollow in the north area of the township, the Steele Mill was a center of activity in the area, offering a cooper’s shop, soap factory, and store, as well as a saw mill and grist mill. While other mills converted to cider mills, tried conversion to steam power or fell victim to fire, the Steele Mill continued its operations until 1904, when a flood swept out the dam.

The first twenty years of the town’s development saw the establishment of merchants’ shops, an undertaker, a small foundry, a potash plant for making soap, and dairies and cheese factories, the last of which remained until World War II. The main business in the North and Western sections of the township was apple and small fruit orchards; produce was sold at Detroit’s Eastern Market. An example of this business was Button Orchards, located on Twelve Mile Road near Drake, run by descendants of John C. Button.

The period of 1850-1890 was a period of growth for merchants, but the agricultural industry rose as the dominant factor of the community. According to the 1870 census, Farmington had 16,514 acres of farmland valued at $1.4 million; machinery was valued at $43,900. Livestock was valued at $186,880, including 642 horses, 1,117 cows, 22 oxen, 5,378 sheep and 1,060 pigs. The harvest included: 1,442 bushels of spring wheat; 42,201 bushels of winter wheat; 38,175 bushels of Indian corn; 39,127 bushels of oats; 36,780 bushels of potatoes; and 75,775 pounds of butter. Orchard produce brought in $16,880.
The agricultural dominance was also reflected in the businesses of the town, including blacksmith shops, harness shops, and farm implement and repair shops.

The average wage of 1870 was $1.00 per a twelve to fifteen-hour day. Carpenters made 15 cents an hour, stone and brick masons earned 20 cents. One could purchase a suit for $20; butter for 20 cents a pound; eggs, 10 cents a dozen; and pork sold for 8 – 10 cents a pound. Not a home in Farmington at that time cost over $1,000.

The 1870’s saw the transition of the central business area from Shiawassee to Grand River, to be closer to the center of activity. The E. C. Grace Dry Goods Store was established at Grand River and Farmington; it is now the Korner Barber Shop. A few doors to the east was the O. B. Smith Drygoods store, where a major fire broke out in October, 1872. The volunteer fire brigade was unable to control the fire, having only two wells nearby as a water supply, which soon ran out. The spread of the fire was finally halted when a house was torn down, creating a gap too large for the fire to jump, but not before the flames had ruined Smith’s Store, Dr. Woodman’s Drug Store, W. B. Shelly and Porter Shephard’s Store, the Masonic Hall and the Township Office, including many township records.

A new Town Hall was constructed in 1876, a two-story brick building, 30′ by 60′, built at a cost of $4,300. The Masonic Lodge leased the upper portion of the building for $1,150, rather than replacing their facilities. Other rebuilding and new construction included a hotel, two saddlery and harness shops, three blacksmith and carriage shops, two wagon shops, a foundry, sawmill and a grist mill.

The first Farmington newspaper, the Enterprise, was published on November 2, 1888, by Edgar R. Bloomer and his printer’s devil Fred Cook. The paper, having undergone various owner and name changes, is still the main local newspaper, now known as the Farmington Observer.

In the 1890’s business continued to flourish, dominated in many areas by Fred and P. D. Warner. Fred owned a hardware store; he was the manager of the Farmington and Franklin Cheese company, and had interests in the Warner Dairy, Warner Buckmaking Company and Warner Drygoods. P. D. Warner was involved in private banking.

Another well-known merchant was Fred Cook, owner of Cook’s Drygoods, later carrying groceries and shoes, crockery and firearms. While no groceries were sold, one could purchase everything else from gingersnaps to “Black Cat” hosiery and “American Lady” corsets.

Business in the Gay Nineties saw the branching out of various specialty shops. Custom made boots and shoes could be had from H. W. Habermehl. Miss Marie Gill offered dressmaking services in her millinery shop beginning in 1893. A meat market and vegetable store was established by Henry Schroeder, and barbers M. B. Pierce and C. W. Chamberlain offered their tonsorial talents in two new shops. Chamberlain, not one to leave success in his competitive business to chance, also sold cigars and offered clock and watch repair services.

At the turn of the century, the sprouting businesses reflected both the needs of the past and advent of a new age of technology. Two new blacksmith shops opened, one at Grand River west of Farmington Road, the other at Farmington and State Street. In 1910, the Nelson sisters announced the opening of their ice cream shop, west of Farmington Road on Grand River, where the municipal parking lot is now. The telephone arrived; several pay stations were set up in stores by the Michigan State Telephone Company. The local exchange was operated by Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Doherty, in their combination telephone office and tin shop.

It was not long before the automobile began its takeover, first with a repair shop on Grand River in a building that in 1970 was the Precise Tool Company, then with the establishment of a Ford sales and service shop on Grand River in 1915. Two other dealerships, Chalmers and Overland, operated on a part-time basis, predecessors of the several full-fledged dealerships that would spout up in the Twenties.

As in all towns, a few “undesirable” businesses were established. William Walters ran a pool room where the Old Village Inn is now: J. E. Phelps, perhaps in an attempt at discretion, advertised the sale of paints and brushes at his pool parlor.

Business continued to flourish during the first half-century. The Farmington area was not hit hard by the depression because it was basically a rural population; its economy was more dependent upon the earth than on stores. The decade of the Thirties saw business continuing somewhat as usual. The Farmington Dairy and Grocery Store sponsored Saturday specials of pork sausage at 25 cents for two pounds, smoked hams priced at 22 cents and butter sold for 24 cents a pound.

The car dealers reported that in August, 1935 (regarded as the depth of the Depression), auto sales were double what they were in 1934, with most customers paying cash. A Kroger store opened where Scott Coburn’s saddlery is now located, followed by Dancers Department Store, Bradley Drugs, the Oak Pharmacy at the corner of Farmington Road and Grand River. The Civic Theatre was built in 1936. And, the inevitable happened; the Handmart, Farmington’s first hamburger stand, opened for business on the south side of Grand River: the building is now a small accounting office.

There were some casualties; the Peoples State Bank succumbed even as the Farmington State Bank reopened on May 19, 1934 after closing for the 1933 Bank Holiday.

Unfortunately, the closing of the Peoples State Bank was a portent of what the future really held. Progress was halted by the war, which created a lack of building supplies. To the flood of newcomers to the area, the old buildings were tawdry and unappealing. Turnover was rapid, with many of the businesses moving to one of the shopping centers being built in the outlying areas. (One such example is Kroger’s, which moved to the Farmington Plaza at Grand River and Orchard Lake Road.) The Farmington State Bank sold out to National Bank of Detroit, which shunned the facility which is now the Village Mall and built its own cubicle on Farmington Road, south of State Street.

The end of the war marked the end of the farming era in Farmington. The land became too valuable to farm, and taxes skyrocketed. Owners sold their farms to developers who created the myriad of subdivisions and shopping centers.

In the 1960’s, in an attempt to stimulate interest in the City of Farmington area, a Federal’s Department Store was built next to the Downtown Center. A rash of drive-ins and hamburger stands sprang up, anxious to cash in on the new interest in the area, much to the alarm of the downtown business leaders who saw this as a move toward further degradation. New restrictive zoning was designed. The outmoded area was redeveloped by the provision of off-street parking areas, the modernization of some of the older buildings, construction of commercial buildings and three new banks, and the building of new municipal offices.

To upgrade the commercial and industrial base, an industrial park was developed at Eight Mile and Farmington Road at a cost of $7,000,000. As a result, $5,000,000 of equipment and inventory were added to Farmington’s commercial value.

Similar steps were taken in the township; commercial and industrial tax bases were needed as business incentive here too. One of the underlying reasons for the incorporation of Farmington Hills was fear that the City of Farmington would annex the valuable township Industrial Park property, near the Ten Mile, Grand River and Halsted Road area.

Leadership in the burgeoning business community fell largely to three groups. The Farmington Downtown Development Authority organizes marketing and promotion activities to benefit the retail development in the downtown area; it insures that the downtown is maintained and coordinates improvements. The Farmington Hills Economic Development Corporation serves as a facilitator to attract businesses to the area and to initiate studies of needed improvements, such as the boulevard for the Twelve Mile Corridor between Farmington and Haggerty roads and the renovation work on Eight Mile Road. The Farmington/Farmington Hills Chamber of Commerce included about 750 members in 1996; the Chamber actively creates a climate to encourage business growth and development, through legislative advocacy and networking among members.

By 1994, Farmington Hills had seven industrial parks with a total of over 600 acres. The Farmington area had almost 4.5 million square feet of office space, which ranged from $10 to $18.50 per square foot for rental. Occupancy was 87.1%, which was higher than in some surrounding communities.

In 1996, approximately 3,000 businesses are located within the 36 mile area of Farmington/Farmington Hills. The variety of businesses range from large multi-national corporate headquarters to the smaller “Mom & Pop” businesses. Support for the automotive industry is demonstrated by the companies: TRW, Automotive Electronics Division; Robert Bosch; and Nissan Research, among others. Many of the local businesses are active in the export/import of products. The Oakland County Development and Planning Division reported local operations of foreign-owned firms with the following diversity: Japanese, 23 firms; German, 9; Italian, 4; French, 3; Canadian, 2; Mexican, 2; Dutch, 2; Swiss, 2; Swedish, 1; and British, 1.

With increased mobility in suburban transportation, gone are the days when the majority of residents work in close proximity to their homes. In 1990, approximately 90% drove to work alone and the average travel time was 23 minutes. Less than 1% used public transportation while 6% used carpools. Only 3% either walked or worked at home.

The relative upward mobility of the residential community adds to the desirability of the Farmington area as a place for businesses to locate. The upward mobility was a trend noted in the changes from the 1980 to the 1990 census figures which showed a high increase in the percentage of people in executive, administrative, managerial and professional positions. For Farmington, the percentage of adults over age 16 in those categories changed from 15% to 41% and for the Hills the percentage went from 19% to 45%.

The national shift of employment to the service sector was mirrored in the Farmington area as well with 36% of the Hills’ working population and 34% of Farmington’s workers classified as service employees.

By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the commercial climate again changed in response to greater population stability and economic downturns. These are succinctly summarized in the Oakland County Development Profiles for the cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills, respectively.

Education and Schools

As the spiritual needs of the settlers were provided by the churches, educational needs remained to be met. According to the 1993 book, If Walls Could Talk: Heritage Homes of Farmington by Ruth Roth Moehlman, the first school in Farmington was established in 1826. Teacher Nathan Power taught in a small log building near the creek. Miss Parley Ann Mead was the first lady teacher. A male teacher in those days received a higher salary than a lady teacher. Power operated a farm as his main livelihood, with teaching as a side occupation during the slack season of farming. There were no desks. Children sat on split log benches. While teaching, Power also helped in the actual construction of the school buildings.

On May 3, 1830 the Township Board established five school districts and three fractional districts with ever changing boundaries. The numbering of these districts generally follows the layout of the sections of the township. A school was built for each section providing education to the eighth grade level. The District One school was located at a midpoint between Eleven and Twelve Mile roads on Middlebelt. It was referred to as the Stone School, because it was made of stone, and also as the Coleman school. Stone School fell to the demolition ball in the mid-sixties, with the construction of I-696.

The school built for Fractional District One, known as the German School, was sited on Middlebelt Road, one-half mile north of Thirteen Mile. It was named for a settler named German. This school is one of the few still standing.

In District Two, the Nichols School was a main center of activity for the people in the North Farmington area. Located near Thirteen Mile and Farmington Roads, it operated as a day school and offered evening classes in spelling, singing and writing, as well as dramatic exhibitions performed by the students.

The Fractional District Two School, also known as Green School, was located in the northwest corner of the township south of Fourteen Mile, on property owned by A. E. Green. The land was apparently bartered away to the Walled Lake School District. For years School Superintendent G. V. Harrison tried unsuccessfully to get it back.

At the corner of Nine Mile Road and Halsted, the Thayer School of Fractional District Three stood until 1929, when its students were transported to Farmington High by bus, a first in Farmington school history.

The West Farmington School, located at Twelve Mile and Halsted, across the street from the cemetery, was known as “The Little Normal” for all of its graduates who became teachers. This Fractional District Four school was used as a store for awhile; the building burned in October, 1964. The District Four School once stood on Grand River Avenue, overlooking Independence Green and Chatham Hills apartments.

The current Special Education headquarters at Middlebelt between Nine and Ten Mile was constructed as the Noble School (for Adelbert Noble who owned the land) for District Number Six. The most is known about the schools which served District Number Five. Built by Arthur Power, the first school was a tiny log hut on Shiawassee Street, East of where the Baptist Church now stands. Beginning in 1826, the school teacher during the winter months was Nathan Power, Arthur’s son. To supplement his teaching salary, Nathan Power spent his after-school hours hunting wolves for the bounty money. During the summers, Parley Mead took over the teaching duties.

The tiny cabin was soon outgrown, and in 1835 Power was authorized to spend $375 on a new facility. Nathan Power met his budget, spending $372.50 on the construction of the “Little Red Schoolhouse” which probably stood near Ten Mile and Farmington Roads.

Power was entrusted with building the next school in 1852, a two-story frame building next to where Farmington Training/Conference Center stands today. The $729 building was moved in 1888 to what is now the parking lot of the Burger King at Warner and Grand River where it became the Apple Evaporator business until it burned.

To replace the frame building, the Farmington Union School was built on the present site of Farmington Junior High School. It, too, fell victim of fire in 1918, only to be replaced that same year by a building then known as Farmington High School. Additions were made as the school population expanded, until the present Farmington High School on Shiawassee was built in 1953. The old school was then used as a junior high until its closing in 1976.

Prior to the building of the high school, education past the eighth grade was optional. If a student wished to go to high school, he/she could attend as a tuition student. Sometimes the school district would pay the entire tuition. In other cases, the cost was split between the parents and the Board. Transportation was not provided; students could choose any school that was near or had room for them. As a result, rural Farmington students attended not only Farmington High School (after it was built), but also Northville, Redford, Walled Lake, Pontiac and Detroit schools.

Educational attainment continued to grow in the Farmington area. Per the 1990 U.S. census, 42% of Farmington Hills adult residents over age 25 completed college, while 34% in Farmington received their degree. In both cities, twice as many people had graduate or professional degrees as had associate degrees even though the community is home to a junior college. For the state as a whole, only 17% completed college. The figure was 30% for Oakland County. The quest for excellence in education permeated the entire age spectrum.

According to figures from the 1995-96 Farmington Public Schools Annual Report, the graduation rate is 96.94%. Females represent 38.2% of dropouts; males, 61.8%. The district’s 1994-95 retention rate was 96.94%. Graduation rate means the percentage of ninth grade students who graduate from high school within four years, adjusting for students who move in or out of the school district and to alternative programs. Of the graduating class, 85% enroll in college.

In 1996, the Farmington Public School District had approximately 12,000 students enrolled in 15 elementary, 4 middle, and 3 high schools, in addition to the 6 special service schools for adult or alternative education. The Farmington Public Schools was one of the area’s largest employers in 1994 with over 1,400 employees!

Parochial education at all ages is also available within the community. Home schooling is increasing.

Alternatives for higher education include: the Orchard Ridge campus of Oakland Community College; William Tyndale College; and the Wayne State University College of Lifelong Learning, which opened a campus in a converted office building on Twelve Mile Road in 1995 and projects an ultimate enrollment of 10,000 within a few years.

The Founders of Farmington

In 1820, the Indian land was ceded to the U.S. government and was made available to settlers at a cost of $1.25 per acre. Such a bargain was attractive to Eastern land owners who wished to expand their holdings. One such Easterner was Arthur Power of Farmington, New York.

In 1823, Power came to Michigan to survey the available land. He liked what he saw in the Farmington area; he purchased a large amount of acreage bounded by what is now Eleven Mile Road and Power to Alameda Road.

After returning to Farmington, New York to finish out the growing and harvesting season, Power, his two sons John and Jared, together with a hired hand and friends, David Smith and Daniel Rush, left for Michigan on February 1, 1824. After crossing the Niagara River, the party traveled by horse and sleigh to Windsor, where they arrived on February 15. Leaving Detroit by the Saginaw Detroit Trail (now Woodward Avenue) they passed through the towns of Hamilton’s (Birmingham) Jenks, Sly, Durkee and Baker, finally reaching their destination on March 8, 1824.

The Power group set to work, first building a small log cabin and clearing the land of the many trees. Nine acres were cleared for wheat, six for corn. After three weeks, Daniel Rush, overcome by homesickness, set off on foot for Detroit and home.

Seven weeks after the Power group arrived, George Collins and his wife Cynthia, the first white woman in the area, came to Farmington. Shortly thereafter, Cynthia gave birth to the first white baby born in Farmington, son John W. The Collins located on unbroken land, built a log house and improved the land. They later moved to the village and opened a general store.

Dr. Ezekiel Webb, the first physician in what was then known as “Quakertown” was a friend of Arthur Power. He became the first Postmaster in 1825, but left the area a few years later, leaving his postmaster duties to George Collins.

In 1825, Seth Warner and his family arrived in Farmington, when son P. Dean was three years old. P. Dean left Farmington at age fourteen for nine years, to work as a clerk and study in Detroit. In 1845 he returned and went into the merchandising business. Later he was elected to the State House of Representatives where he served as Speaker of the House. Warner had married Rhoda Botsford. Because the couple could have no children of their own, they adopted a boy and a girl. This son, Fred Warner, went on to become a State Representative and later the first Michigan Governor to serve three terms. Local historian Jean M. Fox documented Governor Warner’s influence on public policy in her 1988 biography, I Went to the People: Fred Warner, Progressive Governor.

Government

As transportation improved and the area became more accessible, the population grew, mandating incorporation and stronger government.
The initial organization of the area was done at the Quaker meetings when business could be discussed on a monthly basis.

Change began March 30, 1827 when the State Congress, at the urging of Lewis Cass, passed an act which gave people of a township the privilege of electing all township officers, with the exception of judges, clerks, and sheriffs. As Farmington Township was created April 12, 1827, as well as the townships of Oakland, Troy, Bloomfield and Pontiac, the people of Farmington were among the first to be able to elect their own officers.

In that first election the people chose Amos Mead as their Township Supervisor; Robert Wixom as Township Clerk; William Yerkes, Phillip Marlatt and Samuel Mead as assessors; Warham Lee, John Gould and John Power, Highway Commissioners; Rufus Thayer and Erastus Ingersol as Overseers of the Poor; George Collins and Robert Wixom, Pound Keepers; Postmasters were Benjamin Wixom, Samuel Mead, Samuel Maxwell and Wardwell Green; and the Fence Viewers were Samuel Mead, Samuel Mansfield, Wardwell Green and George Tibbets.

In 1867, one square mile of land centered around Grand River and Farmington Roads, bounded by Farmington Junior High to the east and Oakwood Cemetery to the west, was incorporated as the Village of Farmington. The area is now known as the Historic District. In 1926 the Village became a fifth class city. Since then land has been annexed to the west, south, and east to increase the area and tax base.

After incorporation, the city operated under a “strong mayor” government until 1951 when the system was changed to the present city manager government in an attempt to improve the efficiency of government operations.

Within what remained of the township, Wood Creek Farms Village was incorporated in 1957, a one square mile residential area bounded by Twelve Mile Road, Middlebelt, Thirteen Mile, and Inkster Road. One year later another residential area, the Village of Quakertown, was incorporated. In 1972, the township and both villages voted to become the City of Farmington Hills. It, too, operated under a strong city manager form of government in which the city manager heads the government; the city council elects one of its members to serve as mayor. In 1994, residents of Farmington Hills voted to amend their city charter to directly elect a mayor. In 1995, Aldo Vagnozzi became the first mayor directly elected, although the city charter retains a strong city manager form of government.

Religion

These early settlers were deeply religious, mostly Quakers (the first of this group in Michigan). Their first meetings were held in a small house built on land donated by Arthur Power. Next to this church was their burial ground, which can be seen from Gill Road. The Quaker movement was short-lived, however, fizzling out due to both death of the members and a lack of initiative on the part of their leaders to recruit new members.

While the number of Quakers was dwindling, the populations of other denominations were growing. Several churches soon dotted the landscape.

The First Presbyterian Church was founded on August 13, 1826 at the home of Amos Mead, in response to the urging of a David Ruggles of Pontiac. Among its charter members was Seth Warner. In 1833 a church was built on the southeast corner of Halsted Road and Eleven Mile. It was later moved into the village of Farmington. After the move, the church population went into a decline; it was dropped from the Presbytery rolls in 1885, not to be revived until October 25, 1953, when Presbyterians met in the cafeteria of the Farmington High School.

Samuel Mead, the brother of Amos, was instrumental in the organization of the Baptist Church in Farmington, beginning in 1826. By 1835 they had moved into a frame building at Twelve Mile Road and Halsted Road, now the site of the West Farmington Cemetery. Chauncy Wolcott served as minister until 1857 when the congregation split. Wolcott and his followers moved to a church between Thirteen and Fourteen Mile, where the North Farmington Cemetery is now located. The remaining forty-three members organized and built a church on Shiawassee Road; the 28′ x 40′ frame structure was built at a cost of $1,680.

The Methodists met irregularly until the summer of 1827, at which time they began holding their meetings in members’ homes. It was not until 1840, when Ebenezer Stewart donated land for a church at the southeast corner of Warner and Shiawassee, that they were able to construct a house of worship. After many delays, the church, 46′ x 56′, was finally finished in 1844, at a cost of $3,000. The church burned in February, 1920; it was rebuilt two years later on a site at Warner and Grand River.

In 1853 the Universalists constructed a $900 church on Warner, between Shiawassee and Grand River. This building was recently moved to its present location on the Gibson “Centennial” Farm on Halsted Road, a mile north of Grand River.

Other denominations came, grew and built their own churches and synagogues. Now over fifty dot the area. The religious groups reflect the increasing multiculturalism of the community.

Social Life

While business took up a large part of the residents’ time and attention, social life played its part in the community’s development as well. First the mills, taverns, public houses and schools served as centers for meeting and entertainment, but soon the diverse social needs of the people were met in other ways. Early organizations were formed; the Oakland County Agricultural Society in 1830 led to the formation of the Farmington Grange, No. 267, Patrons of Husbandry in the 1870’s, with 59 male and 55 female charter members.

The Farmington Riflemen was a military organization begun in 1830. The men trained at Auburn or Walled Lake with other militia. Known as “minute men”, they were supposed to be ready for call-up in the event of some emergency on the (old) Northwestern frontier. The organization lasted until after the Civil War, when it quietly died.

When the Village of Farmington was incorporated in 1867, an ordinance was written to regulate circuses, caravans and shows. Most of these extravaganzas took place in the Town Hall, which hosted political and patriotic rallies, plays, (some of which were presented by the original Farmington Players organized in 1898), basketball games (in this case the Town Hall functioned as the school gymnasium) musicals, dances, dinners, card-playing, and home talent shows. The Hall provided a meeting place for the Ladies Literary Club (forerunner of the library), the Young People’s Literary Union, the Farmington Women’s Club, the Grand River Pedro Club (music), and the You-go-I-go Pedro Club.

Square dances and masquerade balls were sponsored by the hotels as well, but the best attended of such events were the popular dances held during the Twenties in the barn on Heliker farm, just west of present Harrison High School.

Movies arrived in 1915, billed as silent “Flicker Shows”. They were shown in the Methodist Community Hall, with admission at 15 cents and 25 cents.

When Farmington High School was built, it became the second most popular place in town, after the Town Hall, as the site of sports events, student performances, club meetings and presentations by the reorganized Farmington Players.

By 1995, the area had a wealth of recreational facilities including 5 parks with a total of almost 500 acres, 5 public indoor swimming pools, 3 private swim clubs, 1 private and 3 public golf courses, 22 outdoor public tennis courts, 4 natural ice rinks, and 1 public indoor rink with two surfaces. The Farmington Hills Special Services Department offers an array of sports activities for all ages during all seasons. Intramural sports (baseball, hockey, soccer, etc.) are available, organized by the public schools, clubs, and the city’s recreation department.

Culturally, the area supports a philharmonic, community band and a chorus. The Farmington Artists Club has a juried show annually. The Farmington Musicale and the Farmington Players, which uses a converted barn on Twelve Mile Road, offer venues to the public. Other local organizations, such as the Farmington Historical Society and the Farmington Genealogical Society, cultivate an interest in our heritage. Senior adults find a variety of programs of interest at the William Costick Activities Center, supported by the City of Farmington Hills. Governor Warner’s home has been converted to an historical museum, filled with the grace and ambience of a by-gone era.

Transportation

Modes of transportation to these out-lying areas and around Farmington changed and developed quickly. Originally, Shank’s Mare (walking), horseback, horse and buggy, wagons, and sleighs were the only means of getting around, but this situation did not last long.

When Lansing was made the capital city of the state, the need for a good road between Detroit and Lansing was created. Grand River was the road, but definite improvements were needed. As a result, the Detroit-Howell Plank Road was built. The road was built according to the General Plank Road Act of 1850, which specified that it be sixteen feet wide, ample shoulder on each side, and tollgates be established every five miles, charging fixed rates by vehicle type. Construction began in 1851.

The oak planks were placed directly on the soil, not a wise decision as the planks later rotted and became treacherous. Ditches were opened, culverts were raised, and the entire surface was spread with lime coated gravel, which acted as a protective covering.

In all, six toll stations were established; three were of importance to Farmington history.

This road improvement and the tollgates led to the development of stagecoach lines running the route, and inns to accommodate the road’s travelers. Indeed, stagecoach travel increased to two four-horse stages per day, which could each accommodate twenty-four passengers, plus freight; however, it was not unusual for nine of the passengers to ride perched on top. These coaches, coupled with the hundred wagons which passed through each day, created heavy demand for inns and taverns at which to stop, rest and refresh.

The best-known of these inns is the Botsford Inn, located at Grand River near Middlebelt. Its story is best described by the historical marker now standing in front of the inn:

“This historic Inn, one of the oldest in Michigan providing food and lodging was built as a home in 1836 by Orrin Weston. In 1841 it was converted into a tavern by Stephen Jennings. Known as the Sixteen Mile House it was the stagecoach stop . . . Milton C. Botsford acquired the Inn in 1850. It became a popular meeting place for drivers, farmers and travelers to and from Detroit. Henry Ford, who had first seen the Inn while courting future wife, Clara, in a horse and buggy, purchased the Inn from the Botsfords in 1924 and restored it. The Fords operated it until 1951. Ownership was then taken over by John Anhut, who has made two large additions to the original building.”

 

The once greatest hostelry in the Michigan wilderness was the Walker/Wixom Tavern. Built in 1827 by Solomon Walker, it was located on the south side of Grand River Ave. at the point where Ten Mile breaks away, just west of Halsted Road. The first Township meetings were held here. Mr. Walker sold the Tavern to Harrison Philbrick in 1839. Harrison sold the Tavern to Robert Wixom 6 years later. It was a popular stage coach stop for many years. It reverted to a private residence and fell into disrepair, shortly thereafter.

Another such establishment was the H. Swan Hotel, later known as the Owen House (1875 – 1919) claimed to be “the finest inland hotel in the state” by its second owner, L.D. Owen. The Swan was located on the corner of Farmington Road and Grand River. In later years, it boasted of electric lights, steam heat and a bowling alley, all for $1.50–$3.00 a day.

Another inn still standing at Eleven Mile and Power Road, but no longer in operation, was the Philbrick Tavern, built in 1824–a reported stop on the Underground Railroad.

An interurban electric railroad, known as the Detroit United Railroad, or the D.U.R., began service in 1901. The main junction was at Grand River and Orchard Lake. A power plant was built by the Detroit and Northwestern Railway in 1899, and a car barn across the street. Passengers could transfer to the Orchard Lake Route north to Pontiac, or could stay on and continue through town to Northville.

During its nearly thirty year existence, the D.U.R. was profitable for both its owners and Farmington. Each car had a motor man and a brakeman; many Farmington men were employed. But eventually the D.U.R. fell victim to the automobile, the Depression, and taxes on the Railroad’s right-of-way.

For a short time the service was replaced by a Farmington to Five Points in Redford run by the Detroit Department of Street Railways (D.S.R.), but the automobile was eventually triumphant.

Today, the automobile continues to dominate the scene, racing along the three major freeways: I-696, I-96 and I-275. Limited public bus transportation is available, through a shared regional bus system for Wayne and Oakland Counties. The large and numerous automobile dealerships that have grown in the area reflect on our proximity to the Motor City and our preference for independent travel.

The Underground Railroad and Farmington

An interesting bit of Farmington’s history which is believed to be part reality, part speculation, is the story of Farmington’s part in the Underground Railroad.

The peace-loving Quakers were supporters, of course, of the Abolitionist ideals of freedom for all, so it is natural to assume that they would give what aid they could to runaway slaves traveling to Canada. It is believed that the Farmington routes were used only when the direct passage to Detroit was blocked by the watchfulness of slave hunters.  Although there is no actual evidence to support the claims, several buildings in Farmington are said to have been stations along this route. The first was the old Quaker Meeting House, where Arthur Power lived after 1836. Located on Gill Road, it is now a Convalescent Home.

Other purported stations on the Underground Railroad include: the Philbrick Tavern at Eleven Mile Road and Power, now a private residence; the basement of the First Baptist Church; a home owned by a Judd Webster, which stood where the Thayer-Rock Funeral Home is now located; and the Shaupter Place on Grand River, which is now Executive Office Supply. While there is no proof that any of these buildings were involved, the story of Wellington Hullm, better known as Pete, the T.V. Man, one of the area’s first African-American residents, does give some credence to the legend.

Hullm’s ancestors in Farmington date back to the 1850’s; the property he owned on Ten Mile Road had been in the family since 1870. Ellen Wilson, Hullm’s great-grandmother was born a slave in 1836. In 1850, she and her husband Aaron came to Michigan. They went on to Canada and remained there for three years, obtaining Canadian citizenship and, as a result, their freedom. The two returned to Farmington; it is believed they lived in several places, including a house at Nine Mile and Grand River. When Hullm was young, he left his parents in Detroit to live with relatives in Farmington. He remembers accompanying his great-grandmother to the house at Eleven Mile and Power frequently. Though he doesn’t really know the reason for the visits, he speculates that it may be because of the house’s involvement with her journey to freedom. Hullm’s story, combined with the remembering’s of other stories residents heard from their grandparents, is evidence that some members of the community were indeed involved with the Underground Railroad.

Even with the history of the Underground Railroad, the community remained largely white through the 1970’s. With the 1990 census, the population of the Farmington area remained predominantly white although there were significant increases in minority populations. In Farmington Hills, the percentage of minority population rose from 2.8% of the population to 7.3%; while in Farmington, the percentage went from .9% to 3% of the total population. The largest minority population was Asian, with 4.8% of the Farmington Hills total and 1.5% of the Farmington total. There were a large number of nationalities represented in that group, including: Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, Korean and Thai. The African-American  population was 1.8% of the Farmington Hills total and just under 1% of the Farmington total. The Hispanic population was 1.1% of the Hills’ population and .77% of the Farmington total. The concept of ethnic diversity in the community was vividly illustrated by the fact that in 1990, of the 69,733 people over the age of five in Farmington Hills, 8,015 indicated that they speak a language other than English at home and 2,277 of those indicated they do not speak English very well. For Farmington, 512 people spoke a language other than English at home and 162 replied they did not speak English very well. In addition, almost 10% of the population of Farmington Hills responded that they were born in another county. For Farmington, the figure was 6.8%. Such changing ethnic diversity mirrors a national trend.

Diversity in the school population is often a good indicator of other ethnic population characteristics. A May, 1991 survey of students in the Farmington Public Schools found that 460 students identified 24 primary family languages other than English spoken in the home. Of those 24 languages, the majority spoken were: Japanese, Chaldean, Arabic, Albanian, and Asian Indian. Diversity was identified as a community concern that resulted in the creation of the Multi-Cultural Multi-Racial Council in the early 1990’s. The Council, which represents schools, government, the clergy, business, service groups and residents, has the mission to enhance the basic human dignity of all people and to assure that all residents of Farmington and Farmington Hills feel welcome and comfortable in their city, schools, and neighborhood. The Council promotes community awareness and acceptance of diversity to improve race relations and to improve a climate which promotes inclusivity.

FCL Kids’ Page

Jun 26 2014

As we resume indoor events, please know:
~ All indoor events will require registration to keep groups small. Register on our event calendar.
~ Walk-ins to events will not be accepted. Again, registration is required.
~ Events will take place in the largest meeting space available to allow for social distancing.
~ We encourage masks for everyone over the age of 2.
~ Events are subject to change depending on the current outlook of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Story Times

Storytimes will run from September 7 – November 24. Registration is required: please sign up on our event calendar. Register once to sign up for an entire month.

Evening Storytime

Ages 1-6

12 Mile Rd. Children’s Program Room: Mondays at 6:30 p.m.

Cozy stories, songs, and movement for the whole family. After storytime, we will offer a hands-on activity and a few puzzles and toys for play. The toys will be sanitized after each session and stored until the following week. Catch up on previously recorded Evening Story Times on Facebook Watch.

Baby Storytime

Babies to Walkers

12 Mile Rd. Children’s Program Room: Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.

Liberty St. Meeting Room: Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

Parents of babies to walkers, join us for songs, lap bounces, a story, and time to socialize with other parents. Siblings are welcome.

Little Me Storytime

Walkers to 24 months

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium: Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

Liberty St. Meeting Room: Mondays at 10:30 a.m.

Join us for fun stories, songs, rhymes, movement and activities geared for kids who are just walking up to 24 months, with an adult. Siblings are welcome. After storytime, we will offer a hands-on activity and a few puzzles and toys for play. The toys will be sanitized after each session and stored until the following week.

Terrific Twos Storytime

Age 2

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium: Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

Liberty St. Meeting Room: Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

Join us for fun stories, songs, rhymes, movement, and activities geared for two year-olds with an adult. Siblings are welcome. After storytime, we will offer a hands-on activity and a few puzzles and toys for play. The toys will be sanitized after each session and stored until the following week.

Preschool Storytime

Ages 3-5

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium: Mondays at 10:30 a.m.

Liberty St. Meeting Room: Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.

Join us for fun stories, songs, rhymes, movement, and activities geared for kids 3-5, with an adult. Siblings are welcome. After storytime, we will offer a hands-on activity and a few puzzles and toys for play. The toys will be sanitized after each session and stored until the following week.

Outdoor Storytime

All Ages

Saturdays, September 11, October 9, November 13, December 11 at 10:30 a.m.

Come join us for fresh air storytime on the second Saturday of the month. Locations will change, so check back for details. The October storytime will be at Heritage Park (24915 Farmington Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48336). Meet on the north side of the Nature Center parking lot.

Halloween Outdoor Storytime

All Ages

Saturday, October 30 at 10:30 a.m.

Celebrate Halloween with some not-so-scary stories! Storytime will be outdoors, next to Sunflour Bakehaus (33250 Grand River Ave, Farmington, MI 48336).

Story Book Walk Week

All Ages

November 15-19

November 15-19 is “Story Book Walk” Week! Stay tuned for a pop-up Story Book Walk event in the community.

Melanie on the Move

Catch up on pre-recorded Melanie on the Move storytimes on our YouTube channel.

Events

PAWS for Reading on Zoom

Grades 1-5

Wednesdays, Sept. 15, Oct. 6, Oct. 20, Nov. 3, Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m.

Practice your reading to a certified therapy dog. The dogs love listening to kids read stories and will cheer you on! Please sign up for ONE ten minute time slot per week. The Zoom meeting link information will be emailed to you prior to the program.

Paper Airplanes

Grades K-5

12 Mile Rd. Children’s Program Room

Saturday, September 18, 2:00 p.m.

Have you ever wondered what makes a good paper airplane? We’ll make a few different styles, test them, modify them, and race our friends. Registration is required. Please register each child separately.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Celebration: Outdoor Block Party

Ages Birth-PreK

12 Mile Rd. South Parking Lot

Saturday, September 25, 10:30 a.m.

Join us for a fun block-themed storytime followed by time to play with our giant set of blocks! We will celebrate how many books you have read, or get you ready to participate in the 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program. Participants–remember to bring your completed record sheets—we will have prizes ready for our readers! Meet in the back (south) parking lot of the 12 Mile Location. No registration is required for this outdoor event.

Sukkot Celebration

All Ages

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium

Saturday, September 25, 2:00 p.m.

Sukkot is a Jewish holiday, similar to Thanksgiving, for giving thanks for things like food and shelter. This festival celebrates the farmers’ yearly harvest, which takes place in the fall. We’ll read stories, sing songs, and make art. You may even go home with a (safely packaged) treat! Registration required for every person attending. Please include all adults and children attending in your group size when registering.

Parent Workshop: Toilet Training Basics on Zoom

Adults

October 7, 6:30 p.m.

Teaching your child to use the toilet takes time, understanding and patience. Choosing the right time to start, recognizing the signs of readiness and the procedures to follow can be confusing. This presentation, sponsored by Early On Oakland, will provide an overview of toilet training and offer some helpful tips to use when toilet training your child. Registration is required to receive the link and meeting password. Emails will be sent to registered patrons on October 6th (or on October 7th to people who register that day!).

Play & Learn with Me on Zoom

Ages 1-3

Fridays, October 15, 22, 29 10:30 a.m.

Play is a time for children to learn and explore and familiarize themselves with the world! The richest play can occur when an adult takes an active role and plays alongside a child, instead of only providing toys or supervising. For this three-week program, materials will be provided that will help direct some play while at home. We will start with a group time where children and adults will sing songs and do movement activities together with Miss Melanie. Adults will then be able to hear answers to questions and learn important information from a different professional each week. For consistency, participation is required at all three programs. Registration is required and the Zoom information will be emailed October 14th. Arrangements to pick up a bag of materials will be shared with registered families. One registration is needed per family, even if there are multiple children in the family.

Ojo de Dios Art

Grades K-5

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium

Saturday, October 16, 2:00 p.m.

Make a colorful Ojo de Dios or “God’s Eye” out of sticks and yarn. Registration is required.

STEAM with Leaves

Grades K-5

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium

Saturday, October 23, 2:00 p.m.

Come learn about why the leaves change colors in the fall! This event will include a hands-on science experiment, leaf identification, and nature crafts. Registration is required.

Let’s Draw! Comics and Storytelling

Grades 5-8

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium

Wednesday, November 10, 6:30 p.m.

Learn about global cartoon styles and how to create character faces from local graphic artist Sean Bieri. By the end, you’ll create your own comic! Registration is required.

Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge

Grades K-5

12 Mile Rd. Auditorium

Saturday, November 20, 2:00 p.m.

Come build a Rube Goldberg machine! What’s that? It’s an unnecessarily complicated contraption that takes several steps to complete a goal. Join us for an hour-long STEAM challenge! Registration is required.

Virtual Storytime with Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long on Zoom

Grades PreK-3

Thursday, December 2, 6:30 p.m.

Meet Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long, author and illustrator of the stunning picture book, Someone Builds a Dream. Lisa and Loren will read the book and answer questions from the audience. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link ahead of time. Participants will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of the book. Sponsored by Penguin Books.

Resources

Rebecca’s Recs

Each week, Miss Rebecca, “The Dragon Librarian,” shares book recommendations for kids. Check out her videos on our YouTube channel for some reading inspiration!

Children’s Newsletters

There are two newsletters full of tailored content for your family! Discover events, digital resources, and parent tips based on the age of your child. Click here to sign up for the Ages 0-5 or Grades K-5 newsletters, delivered to your e-mail on the first of each month.

Book Bundle Request Form

Want to pick out your child’s favorite dinosaur books, while strapped for time? Let FCL Children’s staff be your personal shoppers. Fill out a Book Bundle request form and we’ll put together a curated stack of items, tailored to your child’s interests, for you to grab from the hold shelf or Curbside Pickup. Check out normally and enjoy! Please allow for up to 5 business days to process your request. Click here to get started.



Our History

Oct 01 2013

Our History

Youtube Icon

Farmington Hills Historic District Commission presents: Farmington Community Library

Ruth Moehlman of the Farmington Hills Historic Commission interviews Library Director Bev Papai about the history of the Farmington Community Library. (2002)

1881-1913:The Earliest Years

The earliest history of library service in Farmington was never recorded. Little is known other than that school libraries served the populace; teachers hand-delivered books from the school to people who were interested in reading. We only know that such libraries existed because it is noted that they were “re-established” in 1881. This “re-established” service is not comparable to library service offered today; books could be checked out beginning Saturday, December 17, 1881, and every other Saturday thereafter, between the hours of three and eight o’clock. Patrons were limited to one book per person for a two week loan period, with a fine of $.05 per week if the book was overdue.

This situation was to continue for the next thirty-two years. During that period, in 1908, a state law was passed which provided for the establishment of at least one library in each township and city. Per the 1835State Constitution, city, township, and county fines assessed and collected for any breach in the penal laws were to be exclusively applied to the support of public libraries. The matter of penal fine funding was overlooked by Farmington authorities, until it was brought to the attention of the Township Board by two teachers, Martha M. Schroeder and Andrew Crosby. The Board was agreeable to the idea; proceeds of the fines were thereafter earmarked for the library. As a result in 1913, $2.11 was authorized for library purposes.

However, in 1913, the city fathers were forced to recognize the need for library facilities. The Farmington teachers, having decided they could not teach and be librarians too, brought the contents of their libraries to the Town Hall, and stored them on the vestibule floor.

1913–50: “The Ladies”

Faced with a problem that could not be ignored, the Trustees turned the matter over to Martha Schroeder and the Ladies Literary Club. Six hundred dollars was allocated to be shared by the library and the cemetery; the cemetery was to receive first priority. As this did not provide enough money to hire a librarian, the ladies worked voluntarily to run the Library, and assumed the job of raising money to maintain it.

The women organized the Ladies Library Association, which was sanctioned by the Board of Trustees, as the official group in charge of the library. To raise money for library operations, the Association charged dues of 25 cents, and sponsored lectures and other entertainment. As a result, the Library operated on a budget of $140 in the first year. The Sunday School room of the Baptist Church on Farmington Road and Shiawassee was rented for $12 yearly to serve as the library facility. It housed the original collection of 800 volumes, plus the additional 100 volumes added the first year, at a cost of $41.38. The women repaired and rebound books themselves. When the first year was over, $14.80 remained unspent, including the $2.11 in penal fines.

As a librarian was needed for the library, Mary A. Kennedy was appointed to “temporarily” fill that position; her tenure lasted 25 years, ended by her death. For much of that time, hers was an unpaid position; eventually she was granted a small salary by the Township.

From the beginning, the library experienced growing pains. The Sunday School room was soon inadequate. To alleviate the problem, an addition to the Town Hall which was to serve as the library, was authorized in 1915. But World War I brought with it building restrictions, and the addition was not completed until 1919. In the meantime, conditions in the Sunday School had become hopeless; the library moved, temporarily, into the basement of the town bank. Finally the library was moved into the new wing of the Town Hall where business continued as usual until 1938.

When Mary Kennedy died on April 12, 1938, the library was closed for reorganization. This reorganization included setting up a budget for the library, to which each government unit would contribute equally. A Board of Trustees was established to manage the library; it consisted of three members from the city and three from the township. Mrs. Anna (Fred L.) Cook was the President of this Library Board, and she would serve from 1938–1956.

A representative from the Michigan State Library was called in for advice and assistance. Old books were discarded, furniture was sold, and a new librarian’s desk was purchased for $27.50. The library was organized to meet specified requirements to qualify for state aid; one such requirement was that a salaried librarian be employed. The position was filled by Mrs. Florence Leach, a Farmington resident who had been trained in library work at Franklin College in Indiana. Her salary was $6 per week. Another requirement regulated library hours; the library extended its hours to be open on Wednesdays as well as Saturdays.

From the period of reorganization to the mid-fifties, funding remained a problem. In 1938, the city and township together contributed $600 for operating costs; by 1955 the amount was ten times that and still woefully inadequate.

The book collection grew to 4,500 volumes in the ten years after reorganization. Fortunately, about fifty percent of books were on loan at any one time, otherwise there would have been no place to put them. The problem steadily worsened with the great flight to suburbia which followed World War II. As the new residents poured in, the need for increased library services and larger facilities became greater, with no relief in sight.

1950–59: Friends

On August 16, 1954, a similar gift was left by Miss Ruth Carlisle, a former Detroit teacher and Farmington resident. Her will provided for “the residue of (her) estate… to go toward the building fund of a new Public Library in Farmington City and Township”—a gift which amounted to $12,133.

Thus, here was a possibility that funds might be available for the construction of a library building, if Mr. Wilbur’s bequest was not used for a hospital. An examination of the potential Wilbur assets showed that they would be insufficient to fund even a small hospital, but would go a long way toward financing a library.

The Library Board decided that the paragraph in the Wilbur will should be publicized to gain the communities’ attention and support; this was done through the newly-organized Farmington chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The group sponsored a talk given by Mrs. Frances Noonan, of the State Library. In her address, she suggested the formation of a Friends of the Library group. The suggestion was quickly acted upon; the Friends of the Library organized on October 5, 1952. The Friends concentrated their attention on furthering the cause of the library by launching a membership drive, sponsoring speakers, and openly soliciting donations for the library.

Mary Allison The question of a hospital or a library was not resolved for another two years. On June 15, 1954, a group of interested residents met in the city council chambers. The Library Board and the Friends presented their case to Mayor Kenneth Loomis, who appointed a committee to make a complete study and report to the city and township governing bodies. Chaired by Edward Moseman, the members were Mrs. Clarence Stole, for the Library Board; Harold Whiting, for the Friends; Supervisor Ernest Blanchard, for the Township Board; and Councilman James Cavanaugh, for the Council. Mary C. Allison, who would be a prominent figure in the fight for libraries in Farmington, was designated as secretary. The committee submitted its findings in a six-page report which aroused wide interest and paved the way for future action.

Eventually it was decided that the funds should be used for a library, partially because a hospital that would serve the area was being projected for Livonia. Two obstacles immediately arose, however. The first was that between the date of Wilbur’s will and the date of his death, the City Commission, which was to be entrusted with the administration of the funds, had been succeeded by a City Council. The second question was whether the library could be operated as a joint city-township venture as it had been in the past, or must it be a strictly city venture, excluding the more populous township? This was complicated by the fact that Michigan law did not specifically authorize two units of government to establish an official library board with customary powers.

It was this second problem that was resolved first; through the efforts of Friends’ director Wendell Brown, the State Legislature passed a special act, No. 1364 on June 7, 1955, authorizing two or more municipalities to operate a library jointly, and to set up a district library board with comprehensive powers. Within a few weeks the City Council and Township Board passed resolutions to create a district board; each unit appointed two members. Farmington District Library became the first district library in the state. District libraries have since become the preferred form of library establishment law, with many districts forming or re-forming through the years.

The first obstacle remained to be dealt with. The Wilbur estate had long since been closed by Probate court, with its assets turned over to the city of Farmington. Now, at the insistence of the new Library Board, the Circuit Court was asked to reopen the case and hand down a judicial construction of the paragraph in question. The court decided, on February 11, 1957, that the assets of the estate should be released by the city to the new Library Board.

After the decision, the Board president, M. C. Goodard Smith, called for a survey of assets. The township had authorized a tax levy of .3 mill for the administration of a new library district in February, 1956, which was expected to raise $10,400 yearly. The city agreed to pay from its operating budget an amount equal to the same millage on property within its borders. It was presumed that State Aid would continue. The residue of the Carlisle Estate, amounting to $12,133, was turned over to the Library Board. The amount of the Wilbur funds (eventually $75,700) was not immediately known.

It was soon evident that the annual income would be insufficient to maintain an adequate library, and that the funds in hand would not permit the construction of a building anywhere near a suitable size. Contributions were then solicited in earnest with responses ranging from $2.00 on up.

In July, 1955 a real estate developer offered a new site to the Postal Service, proposing a new building. If the Post Office accepted the suggestion, the old post office building on Farmington Road would be put up for sale by the same developer.

The Library Board and other citizens realized that, with extensive remodeling, the old Post Office might be a suitable building for the library. The realty company offered the building to the Library Board for $40,000 contingent upon the Post Office Department’s approval of the new site and new building. The approval came quickly, work began, and the Farmington District Library was dedicated March 2, 1959.

1959–68: The District Library

The new building was 3,800 square feet, had a capacity for 18,000 books, and included lounge and study areas. The staff was now headed by Mrs. Mildred Droege, who had been hired as an assistant to Florence Leach in 1951, and had taken over after Mrs. Leach’s retirement in 1959.

The library prospered during the following years, serving the entire Farmington area, but rumblings began as early as 1960, voicing the need for at least one branch library to serve the northern township. The tiny library was understocked and in need of funds, resulting in the request for a .2 mill increase. The proposal was defeated in April, 1961, but was resubmitted and passed in July.

Old Farmington Branch By March, 1962, in response to the great population increase in the area and resulting increased demand on library services, the Library Board of Trustees authorized a “Need and Site” survey for library development, which was completed in May. The survey showed that there was a definite need for a library facility in the Township area. Several sites were considered, including a spot near Eleven Mile and Orchard Lake Road, where the Township Offices were located, but it was a five acre site on the south side of Twelve Mile Road that was finally approved and purchased.

In October, 1963, the Farmington Area Community House association dissolved, leaving $5,500 to the library building fund, but it was not until April, 1964 that the money was actually received.

With such a contribution as the impetus, and crowded, unsatisfactory conditions at the library building demanding attention, the Library Board requested additional millage for library development and expansion. A proposal for .5 mill for 20 years was placed on the ballot to continue operations at present levels, plus an additional .75 mill was placed on the ballot for ten years for the building of a new library. Patronage had increased from 9,000 to 19,000 users, and the book collection had grown from 9,000 to 21,000 volumes. The collection and use was far more than the small library could effectively handle; however, the voters turned down the additional .75 mill proposal, while the .5 mill provision was passed.

Set back, but not defeated, the Board revealed plans for improvements at the District Library in April, 1965. The plans included repairs to the roof, repairing the driveway and parking lot, construction of a retaining wall around part of the parking lot and the installation of a photocopy machine.

Another boost was given to the library building fund in June, 1965, when the Farmington Valley Saddle Club dissolved, leaving $958.86 to the library.

For the next two years, the Library Board considered alternatives aimed at increasing service to township residents. Such considerations included establishing a branch library at North Farmington High School, wherein the school would provide the space, heat and light with the Library Board paying custodial and cleaning costs and salaries of personnel; but this proposal was found unsuitable. The Board also considered leasing the Manufacturers Bank building in the Westbrooke Shopping Center at Thirteen Mile and Orchard Lake Roads; this idea was also rejected. In April, 1966 the library joined the Wayne-Oakland Federated Library System to provide added service to Farmington patrons through access to other area libraries’ collections. Though the library ranked twenty-seventh in size comparison with the other member libraries, it ranked fourth in circulation, a demonstration of the high rate of use the tiny library had.

By December, 1966 the library had a collection of 25,000 books; by library standards it should have had 80,000 volumes. Again the Library Board asked for a millage increase of one mill for the next ten years, to build a $814,000 building in the township, and an expanded or new $293,000 south building; the north building was to be built first. The proposal was passed on May 22, 1967.

1968–74: A New Building on 12 Mile Rd

Plans for the construction of a new building on Twelve Mile began immediately. Contracts were awarded to Tarapata —MacMahon Associates, architects (later Tarapata —MacMahon—Paulsen or TMP). An application was filed with the Michigan State Library for federal funds, available through the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA), for an amount of 40% of the construction cost. The site had been surveyed when a major setback appeared; the Library Services and Construction Act funds to Michigan were cut drastically. In October, 1968 the architects were notified to suspend activity until further notice. To complicate the problem, the LSCA was to expire in 1968 and would have to be renewed by a new Congress that was already committed to budget cuts.

As expected, the library’s application for federal funds was rejected, due to limited amount of funds received by the Michigan State Library for state distribution. In vain, the request was resubmitted.

Work on the plans was resumed; it was still felt that the money would come from somewhere. By January, 1970, the decision was made to go ahead with the building, even if there would be no money for books to fill it.

An open meeting was planned for April 29, 1970 to discuss the library model and drawings, and for the distribution of a “financial fact sheet”, detailing proposed income and expenditures, designed to answer the questions of interested community residents.

Groudbreaking for the new Main Libary At the meeting a timetable for construction was outlined, beginning with the awarding of a general contract in June, 1970 and ending with completion by December, 1971. The cost of the building was estimated at $1.5 million. It was projected that by the end of the 1971—72 fiscal year, there would be enough money on hand to pay for the building. It was also revealed that another request for federal funds had been made, but by June 24, 1970, that application also had been rejected. To bring the building cost within the confines of the budget, it was decided that some areas of the basement would have to be left unfinished.

On July 8, the Library Board advertised for bids on the Library contract; the contract was awarded on July 23 to Freeman—Darling of Livonia for $1,383,556. Ground breaking ceremonies were held August 30, 1970.

Mary Mitchell In November, Mildred Droege announced her retirement. Mary Mitchell, a well-known Librarian, who had worked for many years as Head of Personnel at the Detroit Public Library, was hired by the Board. Mrs. Mitchell’s new title was Director of Libraries.

As with the first building, a gift drive was established, to raise funds to supply furnishings and books. Major contributors were the Farmington Jaycees, who agreed to furnish the children’s room, and the Farmington Rotary Club, which donated $3,000 to furnish the Quiet Room. Other major donations were made by the Friends of the Library and the AAUW.

On Sunday, June 11, 1972, the Farmington Public Library was dedicated—the $1.2 million facility opened debt-free!

The 38,000 square foot structure has a capacity for 150,000 volumes. The upper of the two levels included a reference area, fiction and non-fiction areas, lounge, Quiet Room and Children’s room with a total seating capacity of 170. The lower level housed a meeting room, which could seat 200 persons, kitchen facilities, the Oakland County Subregional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, an undeveloped space, and storage areas.

Here is an Online Gallery of photos of the new Library building after its opening.

The new building flourished, becoming the center of library activity in Farmington and some adjoining areas, serving a population of 60,000. In September, 1974, Mary Mitchell retired; G. Gordon Lewis replaced her. Mr. Lewis had previously worked at the Youngstown, Ohio Public Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

1974: Farmington Branch

With the opening of the Twelve Mile Branch, it was time to again look at the needs of the District Library, as the second provision of the millage proposal mandated. The small library with a capacity for 18,000 volumes, was bursting at the seams, stuffed with 22,000 books.

In June, 1973, a site was chosen, at the corner of State and Liberty Streets slightly northwest of the old facility. Two of the three lots needed were owned by the city, which readily approved the sale of the land to the library for $50,000, retaining the right of first refusal if the Library decided to sell the land later. The third lot, without which the library could not be built, was not quite so easy to come by. It was privately owned by Mary Clay, who had turned down an earlier offer by the library board to purchase the property. When the city council agreed to sell its parcel of land to the library, it was asked by the Library Board to help the library acquire the lot. The council agreed to help, first by offering to buy the land at “fair market value” after an appraisal, and if that offer was to be rejected, the council would exercise its legal right of “eminent domain” and take possession of the land for public (library) use.

Farmington Branch Construction The land was acquired by the city in February, 1974, at a cost of $34,000; it was resold to the library board for $34,900 which included the cost of acquisition.

With this obstacle out of the way, building of the library progressed quickly. In June, 1974, plans for the new building were unveiled by the architectural firm Merritt, Cole and McCallum. Bids were accepted; the general contract was again awarded to Freeman—Darling of Livonia. Ground breaking ceremonies were held December 8, 1974.

Farmington Branch Dedication Picture At this time, it was decided that the buildings should have new, more uniform, names: they became, collectively, “The Farmington Community Library” the 12 Mile building became the Farmington Hills Branch, the downtown building was to be the Farmington Branch. These names would be further modified when the 1999–2003 renovation and expansion project was completed, and the Farmington Hills Branch was renamed the Main Library.

The $825,000 Farmington Branch was dedicated December 7, 1975. The lower level of the 18,000 square foot structure houses the children’s room, complete with reading tree house donated by the Jaycee Auxiliary, auditorium and local history room. The upper level is divided into the non-fiction room, the fiction room, (which offers a lounging area in front of a stone fireplace), a Quiet Room (furnished by donations from the Farmington Friends of the Library), and a staff work area.

1975–85: Years of Growth

Much of his first eighteen months on his new job, Director Lewis was involved in the planning and construction of the new Farmington Branch. Shortly after the Branch opened, Mr. Lewis began effectively examining each aspect of library operations to identify changes that would make the library services more responsive to community needs.

Children’s programming was completely revamped to follow educational concepts, incorporating a number of age-appropriate activities into six- or eight-week series of registered programs. Twice a year, librarians visited each elementary school to encourage children’s participation in the Summer Reading Club and other programs. Quarterly program booklets were developed to highlight the programs for all ages. Public response was overwhelming since there were few leisure programs offered by other community groups in those years. As a result, registered library programs received maximum booking on the first morning that parents could register their children. To further address parents’ needs, the Parent-Teacher-Professional Collection was created.

Mr. Lewis brought a level of managerial competence and imagination that was needed to meet the burgeoning demand for library services. He methodically compiled Library policies and operating procedures, and systematically educated staff in how to provide the highest level of professional library service to the community. He would establish, as detailed below, a local and Michigan legal collection, and an array of business reference tools that would make the Library an essential information provider for the business and professional communities

The Farmington Hills Branch became the housing agent for the Oakland County Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in September, 1973, with an initial 380 handicapped patrons. Within a few years, demand for these “talking books” resulted in registration exceeding 1,000 patrons, county-wide. Library staff working with these special materials also delivered library services to the senior citizen centers and nursing homes in the area. A special collection of large print materials was developed. Other special collections on gerontology and the deaf/hearing impaired were expanded.

Large portions of the book budget were allocated to “retrospective” ordering to assure that staff purchased the best titles in each subject area. Since the Hills Branch opened without a basic collection, Mr. Lewis was determined that new purchases would better reflect a high quality of information. The Reference Collection was expanded, with additional special collections developed: the Law Collection was enhanced by a gift from attorney Robert Pugh; the library became one of 130 Foundation Center affiliates nationwide, thereby establishing the Grantsmanship Collection.

The Farmington Branch increased its special collection on Michigan and Farmington History. Local historian Kay Briggs greatly enhanced the collection with a donation of over 1,000 rare books and first editions on Michigan history.

Muirwood Branch of the Farmington Community LibraryIn April, 1984 the Library began a pilot program, opening a “storefront Branch” in the shopping mall at Muirwood (northwest corner of Grand River and Drake Road). Stocked with popular reading materials, and offering children’s programs, the new Branch was the joint inspiration of Jerry Beznos, who operated Muirwood and offered the Library three months’ free space, and the Library Administration. However, traffic at the Branch could not justify the investment of staff and materials, and the new Branch ceased operation at the end of June, 1984.

In 1986, the family of Robert Cook, another local historian, donated Mr. Cook’s lifetime avocation: indexing of the Farmington Enterprise and Observer, 1888 —1980. Mr. Cook noted the births, deaths, weddings, and important events that were recorded in this local news that were recorded in this local newspaper. This resource is considered invaluable!

Audio-visual materials were enhanced, with a Friends’ donation to create a videocassette collection in addition to 16mm film, 8mm film, filmstrips, records, and cassettes.

Also in 1984 the Farmington Friends of the Library purchased the library’s first computers—actually, data terminals—which were used to access remote research databases—the commercial Internet forerunners by a decade of what would become the World Wide Web.

The library subscribed to advanced online search services such as Dialog, BRS, Lexis, Nexis, Knowledge Index, and BRS After Dark. Staff were trained with new skills to perform database searching during any hour the library was open. The Farmington Community Library was unique among its peers in taking such an approach; other libraries required appointments or only had a limited number of trained searchers. Instead, the Farmington Community Library expressed these beliefs:
that electronic information was an important component in library services;
that all Adult Services staff should have basic competencies in learning to use these new computer resources;
and that staff should market the value of these new resources to the rest of the community.

From this perspective, the library was in the forefront of information technology—a position it would maintain from that point forward. Staff held training sessions in the high schools and gave demonstrations to the business community. To encourage use of Westlaw, the legal database; local District Court Judges sponsored breakfasts for area attorneys to encourage training.

During the height of the demand for staff-assisted database searching, staff performed over 1,000 searches per year with revenue of $34,000. Each search was offered on a cost-recovery basis which included the telecommunications charges, time in the mainframe computer, plus 20% overhead.

The Friends also provided the first computer equipment for the Children’s Departments, with educational software and games. It quickly became apparent that children were adept at learning new computer skills. From the early 198 0’s to 1996, there were four generations of computers and software purchased for children’s use.

The Farmington Community Library became one of the highest circulating libraries in the Wayne Oakland Library Federation. Such heavy use soon led to various renovations to fully use the 38,000 square feet in the Hills Branch. In 1977-78, the Library for the Blind and Handicapped was moved to quarters in the lower level, with good access to the elevator for walk-in traffic and for mail deliveries. The public library paid $27,000 for this renovation, with Oakland County paying the remainder of the costs.

Board of Trustees in 1980 The Library Board recognized that additional substantial renovations would be required to fully use the lower level of the Hills Branch. Appropriations funding from the City Councils were not fully accommodating the Board’s perceived library needs. In May 1979, two issues were placed on a special election ballot: one would have created an independent taxing authority in the Library Board and the second would have granted a tax levy of 1.5 mills for library operations. Both proposals were defeated.

At budget hearings the following year, the two City Councils approved funding of $141,000 for relocation of the Children’s Department to larger space in the Hills Branch. The Farmington Friends of the Library, as a large group of citizens, attended the Joint City Council budget meeting as proponents of the needed library improvements. Their voices were once again heard!

The Children’s Department moved to approximately 7,000 square feet in the lower level. A Conference Room, seating 75 people, was added to accommodate some Children’s programming and to rent to small groups for meeting room space. Maximum shelving was added in the adult collection. In 1981–1982, the Councils approved purchase of a security system at $28,000 per year for three years, with the Friends also agreeing to financially support this major project.

Director Lewis and his staff recognized the operational changes occurring in the library profession. Lewis and the major members of the Wayne Oakland Library Cooperative agreed that an automated library system was needed to replace the manual systems that were labor-intensive and slow. Seven members agreed to pool their monies to jointly purchase access to GEAC, a Canadian-based automation system. In 1983, library staff linked each book in the library collection, creating an accurate inventory for the first time in over twenty years. Library circulation exceeded 500,000 items per year and was projected to only increase!

1985–90: A Change in Leadership

In May 1985, G. Gordon Lewis resigned his position as Library Director. The City Councils chose to exercise their prerogative to increase the total number of Library Board members to eight, with four trustees chosen by each community for four-year terms. Assistant Director Beverly Daffern Papai was promoted by this expanded Board to Library Director in July, 1985: she woud server as Director for the next 19 years until here retirement in 2004. Shortly thereafter she selected Gerald Furi to be the new Assistant Director—a position in which he would serve for the next 26 years until his retirement in December, 2011.

Beverly D. Papai, Director 1985–2004 Beverly Papai brought a unique combination of compassion, professional excellence and unparalleled creativity to her leadership of the Library, which would extend from 1985 to her retirement at the end of 2004. She would preside over a period of remarkable growth in Library usage and services, as she shepherded the Library into the Information Age without relinquishing anything of its rich heritage. In early fall, 1985, the new Director and Staff embarked on the creation of the Library’s first Five Year Plan, as requested in a joint meeting of the City Councils. Planning included an assessment of staffing needs, facilities, work flow and demographic projections. Both internal staff and patron surveys were taken. An independent consultant conducted a telephone survey to reach non-users. Public support of the Library ranked “important” even by non-users. Efforts were made in the next few budget cycles to increase the level of the staff and to improve their compensation to a level competitive with other similar libraries.

The need for increased space in a “main” library building was one of the most critical findings in this planning process. TMP Associates, the original architects of the Hills Branch, conducted a feasibility study for the expansion of the Hills Branch. TMP concluded that a well-planned expansion program was necessary to maintain the level and quality of services that the community requires.

Thus, began a multi-year cycle of study sessions with City Council members and the Library Board to review: the need for a larger library; the type of building required; addition versus a totally new building; selection of an architectural firm; site; cost; operating millage; election date; and campaign activities.

The discussion of placing library expansion referenda on the ballot was somewhat expedited in May, 1989, when the Governor signed a new District Library Law, Public Act 24, which replaced Public Act 164 of 1955. The Farmington Community Library was given retroactive taxing authority status, which allowed the Library Board to place ballot issues for bonding or millage before the electors of the entire library district. In November 1989, two ballot issues were defeated by the voters: $14.5 million bonding for a new main Library [located on West Twelve Mile, east of the Halsted Road] and 1.5 mills for operating purposes. An analysis of the election results showed voter concern regarding the site. While this election lost by a narrow margin, the Library Journal included the Farmington’s campaign plans as a model in their 1990 election issue.

In 1991, the Orchard Lake Campus of Oakland Community College hired a consultant to renew the college’s master plan. The consultant and Campus President approached the library with a study proposal for a merged public and college library, which could be built on the campus. The next year was spent in analysis and discussion regarding the myriad of arrangements that would lead to a successful joint enterprise. A model joint library had operated successfully for a number of years in Broward County, Florida. Discussions faltered in late 1992 when it became apparent that the college was unable to dedicate funding to the building of the joint library and that labor-related issues could not be resolved.

Continuing frustration with inadequate public seating, insufficient parking, and a lack of shelving space to house the collection led to a second ballot proposal in August, 1993. Again, the proposal requested approval of a new main library at a new location, as well as operating millage. The site this time was central to the community–on property owned by the City of Farmington Hills on Orchard Lake Road, south of the 1-696 expressway and directly across from the entrance to Oakland Community College. Again, these proposals were defeated. Again, the public commented on dissatisfaction with the proposed site.

In 1994, the Hills Branch received a face-lift with replacement of 1980 carpeting and relocation of library shelving to make better use of the space available. The catalyst for this renovation was the relocation of the Library for the Blind and Handicapped to a new county library in Pontiac, MI. The Library Board approved a plan to use the 2,000 square feet then vacated by the Library for the Blind.

Cost of the renovation was $271,000, with the majority of those monies expended on new carpeting. Library Design Associates assisted with the space planning for relocation of library areas. Fiction and audio-visual materials were moved to separate rooms. For the first time in years, staff members had individual workstations for their responsibilities when not working at a public desk. Consideration was given to the usability of the various changes for any future expansion effort.

At the request of the two City Managers, the Library Board reactivated its Building Committee in the spring of 1995 to consider a proposal whereby the City of Farmington Hills would purchase 2 + acres adjacent to and west of the existing Hills Branch. Such space would be required if the Library Board chose to expand its current building. The Building Committee, with the City Managers participation, selected the firm of Luckenbach/Ziegelman and Partners to prepare a feasibility study of an addition to the building. The Board also hired Library Design Associates to recommend space requirements for an enlarged library operation. By the end of the summer, the City purchased the property, to be reserved for future library needs. Yet another election for library expansion would be held before the end of the century.

1990–2003: A New Millenium

The Library’s history was shaped by caring people who viewed a public library as integral to the community’s quality of life. From early teachers to the Ladies Literary Club to the AAUW and other service groups, a few individuals emerged as leaders in the library’s history.
Wendell Brown fostered the creation of the first District Library Law, which would impact upon the governance of many public libraries statewide. He also was instrumental in the incorporation of the Farmington Friends of the Library, whose membership exceeded 1,200 by 2009!

Library Board members throughout the years showed perseverance and determination to build for the future. Such dedication is perhaps best characterized by Ernest E. Sauter who was first appointed to the Board in 1964 and continued to serve until his death in 2008.

The focus on good public service was nurtured by early librarians Mary Kennedy, Florence Leach, and Mildred Droege. Directors Mary Mitchell, G. Gordon Lewis, and Bev Papai expanded the library’s traditional role to also include new programs and information technology while still maintaining the strong public service values.

Governmental leaders in the cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills continue to demonstrate support for the Farmington Community Library, both financially and by appointing Board members who are concerned about the entire library district.

The Farmington Community Library, through its Board and Staff, worked to meet public library needs for the millennium—while remembering its fine heritage of service to the community.

In 1992 the Library decided that the response time and reliability of a Library Catalog and Circulation System shared with the 60 other libraries in the Wayne-Oakland Library Federation was not in our best interest, and we switched to a self-sufficient system provided by DYNIX a privately-owned firm from Provo, Utah. The DYNIX system would serve the Library well and faithfully until the DYNIX company was sold and acquired by a much larger firm in 2007.

In 1993, the Farmington Community Library and six other Metro Area libraries—Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Canton, Independence Township, Rochester Hills, and Southfield— joined together to form the Metro Net Library Consortium, Inc. Metro Net, chartered as a Michigan non-profit corporation, was created to share resources and explore applications of technology to improve library services.

Farmington Community Library functioned as the electronic hub for the Consortium, hosting a Gopher server (precursor to the forthcoming World Wide Web server) in late 1993, and in, 1994, became one of the very first public libraries to have its own Web site, initially shared by the Consortium, but within two years time offering our own Web site for our users. Metro Net also provided free dial-up access to Library resources for Library users—a service which would be continued until late in 2010, when the prevalence of broadband access made dial-up a relic of the past.

From 1972 to 2008, the number of Library cardholders increased 157%, and the circulation of books 134%. In response to a survey sent out in February, 1998 to every household in the community, residents said they wanted more materials, services and space that the Library could currently provide. So on August 4, 1998, the Farmington Community Library asked the voters to approve an $11.7 million, 15-year millage (.6 mills) for renovation of both Branches and expansion of the Main Library. The millage was overwhelmingly approved, and renovation began with the Farmington Branch.

Over $1.4 million was spent in renovations at Farmington, including:
White Oak Brick Sculpture Upgraded HVAC System
Improved lighting
Replacement of single-pane windows with energy-efficient thermal pane glass
Replacement of the clerestory windows with non-glare glass
Conversion of the upper level restrooms to conform with A.D.A. requirements
Improvde drainage and landscaping
New carpeting, with reupholstered and refinished furniture
An Information Commons and Computer Lab, and public seating the the Adult Non-Fiction room wired for power and internet access
Self-checkout stations
Addition of a Tree Brick Sculpture behind the Circulation Desk, and a Storybook Forest in the Children’s are (See Art in the Library)

The Farmington Branch was rededicated on November 7, 1999.

Over the next four years, the Main Library was expanded—nearly doubled in size from 38,000 square feet to 72,000— and completely renovated. The results of this project are available for viewing online. Briefly summarized, the improvements include:
All shelving space for books and AV materials doubled and, in some cases, tripled
Seating for study or casual reading expanded to 245
Over 100 public-access computers for adults and children
New public service desks, and a new Circulation RFID-bassed conveyor system for automatic check-in and sorting of returned items
An additional Quiet Study room and several small group study rooms
A café/coffee shop for the public
A Fireplace with John Glick tiles
Interactive, museum-quality learning centers for children (toddlers–6)
A new mezzanine level with public meeting rooms

As mentioned above, a gallery of pictures of the renovated and expanded Main Library are available online.

2003-12: The Information Age

A Change in Leadership

Beverly D. Papai, Director 1985–2004Beverly D. Papai retired at the end of 2004, and Tina Theeke was named as her successor by the Board. Ms. Theeke served for nearly twenty years at the Library, and was Branch Head at the Main Library before becoming Director. She has brought her unique qualities of highly intelligent leadership, quiet competence, openness, and consensus-building skills to the position.

With the building expansion and renovation project successfully completed under Bev Papai, the Library’s Director and Board of Trustees were now faced with the need to establish secure long-term funding for the Library in the face of declining revenues on the part of both cities.

Secure Funding Established

From 2002 through 2005 the Library experienced serious budget cutbacks amounting to over $650,000, due to decreasing appropriations from the Cities reflecting increasingly difficult economic times and the cessation of Federal revenue-sharing. The City Councils supported a tax rollback that would enable the Library to replace funds appropriated by the Cities with a long-term reliable funding source.

The Library asked the community for a 20-year millage of 1 mill. On Tuesday, May 3, 2005 the voters overwhelmingly approved this millage, and secure funding for library operations and meeting future needs was established. Because of this millage, the Library was able to:
Restore open hours to 72 per week, and open again on Friday and Sundays
Improve our print and non-print collections
Update and expand our Large Print collection for our residents and for the individuals we visit at nearly 40 area senior residences and nursing homes
Provide outreach services to preschools and day care centers in the area
Offer wireless “hot spot” internet access at both Branches
Create an adequate Fund Balance, as urged by our auditors, to address future needs
Create a Capital Improvement Fund (paving parking lots, new signage, upgrading computers)
Address liabilities in our employee compensation (accumulated absences and other leave payable upon termination) as recommended by our auditors.

Enhancing the Library’s Catalog

The Library offered online access to its Catalog under the DYNIX system from 1992 until mid-2008. After DYNIX was acquired by SIRSI, a large academically-oriented firm, it suffered the fate of many acquisitions, in that the product became a sort of step-child and would eventually be reworked into a lesser clone of the firm’s own system. Many promised improvements were postponed or not delivered by the vendor, and the Library decided to go out for bids from other library automation vendors, eventually deciding upon POLARIS, a firm specializing in public library systems. On May 14, 2008 we began our use of the POLARIS system for our online catalog. Many enhancements to the user experience have been implemented since then, and we are pleased with the system.

Information 2.0

The term Information 2.0″ or Web 2.0 is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, mashups and folksonomies. Tools offered on a Web 2.0 site allows users to interact with other users, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them.

The Farmington Community Library’s Web site offers the following Web 2.0 tools:

Interactive Online Chat with a Librarian available from our Home Page— this has proven a very popular tool. You can ask questions using your own web browser and receive instant answers in an online conversation. When a Librarian is not available, you can leave an email message and we’ll get back to you quickly.

Our Library also has a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram for users of these social networks to connect with us.

A customized eNewsletter—sign up on our BookLetters page and choose from any or all interest area newsletters, including Audiobooks, Book Club Choices, Books featured on broadcast media, Business, Fiction Best Sellers, Forthcoming Fiction releases, Meet the Author, Mystery, New Fiction, Nonfiction Best Sellers, Nonfiction Previews, Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy.

“Wiki” comes from a Hawaiian word for fast. Try our Busy Bee Wiki—a rich resource of instant information for child care providers and other early childhood professionals.

Planning for the Future

As a District Library serving the communities of Farmington and Farmington Hills we provide Library Service in two locations. Each of our buildings has its own unique personality, but equally excellent points of service. Comments in our recent surveys confirmed that many users visit both Libraries. /I usually go to the Branch because it is easier to browse, cozier and more convenient. At other times I use the Main Library for the larger collection—better for my research.

Our entire staff work together to accomplish the Long Term Goals of the Library and they take pride in our commitment to excellence, as defined in our statement of Public Service Values and our Quality Policy. Our work at the Library is also guided by the American Library Association (ALA) Librarianship and Information Services: Statement on Core Values, adopted by our Library Board of Trustees.

We have learned that proper planning will make life easier for the future, and that the Library needs to have strategies in place to assist us in both healthy and difficult budget years.

We drafted our last Strategic Plan in 2004 amidst increasing budget cuts and a reduction in hours of Library operation. Financial stability for operating monies was the primary goal of the Trustees Strategic Plan, which was accomplished at a May 2005 election, with voter approval of a dedicated operating millage of 1 mill for twenty years.

Today, five years later, we must again consider fiscal needs, generated by a dismal state and local economy, and the need to replace the revenue from an operating millage that ends in 2013. Our strategy for stable funding again must consider timing, education of the public, and the local economy, among other factors.

After much community input and thought, our Strategic Plan 2009–2013 was presented to, and received by, the Library Board of Trustees at their November, 2009 meeting, to chart our way into the future.

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