Spies Public Library – History

The first Library in Menominee was as early as 1896. Housed on the second floor of the old firehouse, it was later moved to the Wilcox Building. In March of 1903, Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Spies announced their plans to donate money to build and furnish a new Library that would bear their name. The Spies’ selected the architectural firm of Patton & Miller from Chicago. This firm was the same firm that designed many Carnegie Libraries. Perhaps, this is why even today people think the Spies Public Library is a Carnegie Library. We like to think Mr. Spies envisioned himself as the “Carnegie of Menominee.” We are grateful for his gift of $30,000.00 to build and furnish a library for Menominee. The actual bid for the Building was awarded to the RM. Garthwait Co. of Chicago for $21,950.00. The remainder was spent on furnishings many of which are still being used today. The Spies Public Library was completed and dedicated on March 30, 1905.

When the Library first opened it contained 5,184 volumes and 48 periodicals. Mrs. Gertrude B. Munger was the first Librarian. During the first year of operation 24,746 items were borrowed. Each year the circulation continued to grow as more citizens used the Library. In 1918, a separate book collection was purchased to provide library service to all residents of the county. Books were kept in display trunks holding either 50 or 100 books and weighing up to 140 pounds. A Librarian would haul the trunks to the train station and board the train making stops throughout the county. Later specified locations were set up to keep the books up to 90 days. By 1929 this service had grown to 22 stations in stores, post offices, and private homes, and 53 county schools, making three times the original number of stations with almost five times the circulation.

When the Spies Public Library was built, a museum room was part of the project. It took until 1926, with donations from the A. L. Sawyer family and others for the room to open. It contained minerals, Indian relics, shells, coins, old books and many other miscellaneous items. These exhibits later became the basis of the Menominee County Historical Museum.

It was not until the late 1950’s that the Library installed its own heating system. Prior to that time the Library was supplied steam by the Water works with a pipe running from the Water Works to the Library.

Another special remembrance people have of the Library are the pictures in the Children’s Room. In 1958, Marion Kassing was commissioned by the Library Board to paint four pictures for the Children’s Room each picture to cost $36.00. Those four pictures are still one of the focal points of our Children’s Room and are on display today.

Your Spies Public Library has a rich and fascinating history — take time to learn more about it!