Hoyt Library

Hoyt Library

Hoyt Library

Address & Phone

505 Janes Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607
Phone: (989) 755-0904
Fax: (989) 755-9829


Monday & Thursday: 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday & Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday:  9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.



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The Hoyt Public Library of Saginaw was a gift to the city of Saginaw (then East Saginaw) by one of its most prominent citizens. Jesse Hoyt of New York was never a permanent resident of this city that he influenced so profoundly, but no one did more to promote its creation and growth. Jesse Hoyt’s father, James M., and his four brothers were partners in their extensive Saginaw investment. With Norman Little as agent, in 1849, they purchased a substantial portion of East Saginaw. First Alfred (a son) and then Jesse took charge of the family interest in East Saginaw. Soon they were involved in every aspect of East Saginaw’s economy – lumber, railroads, salt, banking and buildings (among them the Bancroft House, the Buena Vista Block, the Exchange Block and many others). Although these projects added to the great wealth of Jesse Hoyt, yet in many instances he put his own interests below the welfare of the community, and risked his own money to help and bolster the well-being of this, his favorite city, which he visited periodically.

His last visit to Saginaw was in 1877; after that ill health prevented his return. With the advice and counsel of his Saginaw attorney, William L. Webber, prominent businessman, scholar and politician, he drafted a will with bequests to the city of East Saginaw. One of these was the sum of $100,000 for the establishment of a library on a site owned by Mr. Hoyt. He purposely limited the amount so that the citizens would have to contribute to the support of the library if they really wanted it to flourish. The will was executed in June, 1882, and Mr. Hoyt died August 12, 1882. Among the provisions for the establishment of the library were stipulations that it be for consultation and reference only, and that it always bear the name Hoyt Public Library. A Board of Trustees consisting of prominent East Saginaw citizens was appointed and the search for an architect and plan for the library building was initiated. With $56,000 (a considerable amount in that long-ago era) at their disposal, the trustees visited libraries in many parts of the Middle West, and held a competition among architects for a suitable design. The aid of Frederick Poole, then at the Chicago Public Library, and one of the outstanding librarians in the United States, was solicited to help in choosing the best of the submitted plans. Among the prominent architects who took part in the competition was H.H. Richardson, one of the most popular and widely acclaimed architects of that day, whose distinctive style marked many public buildings, churches, and libraries. However, Frederick Poole was not an admirer of Richardson’s libraries. He claimed they were too monumental, wasteful of space and not functional as libraries, and he was instrumental in rejecting Richardson’s proposed design for the Hoyt Library. (Richardson then submitted the same plan to New Orleans, where it was accepted for their Public Library building. This design was the last major architectural work of Richardson; he died soon after.) The Hoyt Project was then awarded to the firm of Van Brunt and Howe of Boston. They kept many of the typical Richardson features: the heavy Romanesque exterior, the large limestone blocks, the red sandstone trim, etc. Consequently, the building today is almost considered to be an H.H. Richardson creation. Students researching Richardson’s work usually include it as an interesting tangent of the famous architect’s heritage. Work on the building was begun in 1887. The principal construction material for the outer walls was Bay Port limestone from the Bay Port quarries near the tip of Michigan’s “Thumb” area. A special railroad was constructed to bring the stone to East Saginaw. The limestone was the gift of Wm. Webber. Lake Superior quarries supplied the red sandstone used for exterior trim. The Library was opened to the public on November 1, 1890. In 1888, on the recommendation of Frederick Poole, Miss Harriet Ames was hired as librarian. She had worked with Poole at the Boston Athenaeum and he considered her to be one of the most talented and competent librarians in the country, ideally suited to the acquisition and cataloging of books for the new library.

(Click on page 2 to read more about the Hoyt Library.)

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