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RHPL History

About RHPL

Rochester Hills Public Library provides lifelong learning opportunities, instills a love of reading, and offers equal access to information to over 110,000 patrons. The library serves as a community center where visitors enjoy innovative ways to learn and socialize through a variety of programs, including an annual summer reading challenge, parent-child workshops, concerts, and weekly lectures. Its expansive and user-friendly collections allow cardholders to use physical materials, eBooks, tools and technology, database subscriptions, movie and music downloads, language and genealogy services, business and investment reports, and national news sources at no cost.

RHPL is located in the City of Rochester and serves the residents of Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township. The library has a dedicated millage from the voters in Rochester Hills dating back to 1924, and library service is provided to the City of Rochester and Oakland Township through a service contract.

Mission Statement

Rochester Hills Public Library empowers people to explore and create with resources that enlighten, educate, entertain, and inform.

The Early Years (1870s-1920s)

The Rochester Literary Society founded Rochester’s first library in 1872. The society sought to promote the enjoyment of books and was followed by the Rochester Literary and Library Association (1873-1876), the Rochester Lecture and Library Association (1877-1881), and the Avon Ladies Library Association (1882-1908). The Avon Ladies Library Association operated for 26 years as a corporation, selling shares of stock and charging membership fees and annual dues. The corporation dissolved in 1908. Ten years later, the Rochester Women’s Club opened a library in the Rosso Building on Main Street.

The club recognized the need for public support of a library helped pass a millage to support the Avon Township Free Public Library. The library opened on February 7, 1925, in the Rochester National Bank Building at Fourth Street and Main Street.

Eva Woodward Parker

Four years later, the library moved to the former C. K. Griggs residence, a two-story brick home located at 210 West University Drive. In 1951, the library moved temporarily to the American Legion Hall while a new library building was constructed at 210 W. University Drive. This building was a gift from Eva Woodward Parker.

The Rochester Era described Parker as a “lady of rare culture.” Born in Avon Township, Parker was the daughter of Lysander Woodward, one of Rochester’s pioneers and a prominent elected official in Oakland County.

Innovation and community leadership was a common thread in the Woodward family. Eva was 16 years old when her father changed the course of Rochester’s history by bringing the Detroit and Bay City Railway to the community. Around the same time, her older brother, Robert Simpson Woodward, began his successful career in astronomy, geology, geophysics, and astrophysics.

In 1877, Parker studied literature at the University of Michigan. After graduation, she returned to the Rochester area and taught school. In May 1883, she married Arthur S. Parker, a graduate of the University of Michigan and president of the Detroit Drug Company. Parker’s lasting impact on the community came with her passing in 1933. Aware of the importance of libraries, she donated a large portion of her estate to enhance the Avon Township Free Public Library. The library was renamed the Woodward Memorial Library.

In 1962, the building was expanded with an endowment from the Grace Currey estate. The final and largest addition in 1976 increased the size of the library to 25,000 square feet. When Avon Township became the City of Rochester Hills in 1984, the Avon Township Public Library changed its name to Rochester Hills Public Library.

Recent Years (1990s-2000s)

During the 1980s, it became apparent that the library was too small to meet the needs of a growing community. A new library was built at 500 Olde Towne Road and dedicated on Nov. 1, 1992.

Rochester Hills Public Library is a 70,000-square-foot building located on the edge of Rochester’s central business district. The Paint Creek and Paint Creek Trail border the building on the north and east edges. The building was designed by TMP Associates, Inc. of Bloomfield Hills and constructed by Frank Rewold & Son, Inc. of Rochester. The exterior design and the use of stone and red brick recall the architecture of the old mills that were so much a part of Rochester’s history. Bay windows on the north side of the building take advantage of the scenic views of Paint Creek.

In honor of the new library, the Woman’s National Farm & Garden Association, Rochester Branch, purchased a Camperdown elm tree and planted it in front of the building. These unique trees are grafted by putting the root system of the tree on top, giving the tree its distinctive shape. The library had hoped to move the original Camperdown elms from the former library location at University, but the cost of moving each tree and the risk of destroying them was too great. The library continues to showcase the tree in its official logo.

Centennial (2024)

In 2024, Rochester Hills Public Library will celebrate 100 years of service in the greater Rochester community. There will be many programs and events planned to highlight this special anniversary throughout the year.