The Detroit Public Library
An American Classic
Barbara Madgy Cohn and Patrice Rafail MerrittAward Winner
Pages: 200 Size: 9x9
Illustrations: 222 color photographs
For the last century, the Detroit Public Library has ranked as one of the most beautiful buildings in Detroit—an important landmark as well as a significant monument serving generations of Detroiters. The Detroit Public Library: An American Classic was born out of "Discover the Wonders," an art and architectural tour of the main library that began in December 2013. Since the tour’s inception, around seven thousand people have visited this structural gem. The Detroit Public Library was the result of numerous requests for a book that showcases the library’s many artistic and architectural wonders. As the photographs in this book reveal, the Detroit Public Library stands as an enduring symbol of the public library, one of the most democratic institutions in America.
The design of the Detroit Public Library was Cass Gilbert’s vision for Detroit’s Early Italian Renaissance-style library. This book honors his work with a chronological and photographic timeline of the conception and building of the 1921 Woodward Avenue Library, the 1963 Cass Avenue addition, and the library as it is today. The book goes through the library’s transformative years, documenting the contributions of local and national artists such as Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Gari Melchers, and John Stephens Coppin, and includes photographs of the rooms they have decorated with murals, mosaics, painted windows, bronze works, architectural elements, and ornamentation. In preparing The Detroit Public Library, the authors had two fundamental desires, as they note in their preface. The first was to celebrate the main library’s design using both historic and contemporary images, the latter contributed by a number of photographers presently working in Detroit. The second was "to share with the world the beauty and elegance of a grand building in a great city that, even through the most difficult times, has sustained one of the most magnificent neo-classical buildings in the country."
The Detroit Public Library unites the interests of history buffs, art enthusiasts, library lovers, and Detroit-area locals with a tribute to one of the city’s most impressive structures. This book will appeal to those looking to learn about the builders, the history, and the stories that brought the Detroit Public Library to fruition.
The deliberate and considered choice of building and sustaining a library system is the first order of creating a caring and knowledgeable community. From its inception, the Detroit Public Library has been a sustaining force in the city. Its success is an important measure of a civil society.
– Jeffrey Scherer, architect
This important chronicle of the art and architecture of one of our city’s most treasured spaces will inspire not only a visit to the Detroit Public Library but also a new appreciation for Detroit’s place in America’s cultural history.
– Salvador Salort-Pons, director, president, and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Public Library is one of the most essential structures in the city of Detroit. As an architectural tour de force, the library astonishes onlookers with its grandeur. As a cultural institution, the library is a testament to its artistry. As an epicenter of knowledge, the library reverberates with the city’s collective search for the truth. Cohn and Merritt’s new book is a tribute to a fundamental cornerstone of this great city.
– Phillip Wm. Fisher, vice chairman of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, founder of Mission Throttle, and supporter of the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation
The Detroit Public Library is an inspirational edifice constructed to reflect the cultural and educational aspirations of the growing city. This pictorial captures the aesthetics of the community and the beauty of the building.
– Francis J. Buckley Jr., retired associate director for public services at the Detroit Public Library
The [book] is a testament to an overlooked treasure.
– Judith Harris Solomon, HOUR Detroit
The book pays beautiful tribute to one of the city’s most impressive structures.
– Suzanne Chessler, Detroit Jewish News
This is a beautiful book with splendid photographs on nearly every page. And that was the goal - to use the eyes of over a dozen Detroit photographers to showcase "this overlooked treasure".
– Susan Eileen Paton, The Michigan Historical Review
The illustrations are clearly presented and quite numerous. The reader gets a real sense of the building and its glorious architecture and artwork. Photo captions are informative without being burdensome. The book takes the library chronologically through the twentieth century, presenting information about the various renovations the building received over the years. Overall, this is an impressive work.
– Edward A. Goedeken, Libraries: Culture, History & Society
2017 Foreword INDIES Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the Architecture category