Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library

ANBL History

The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library is a historic building recognized as a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1980. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 1993.

Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library

Belding's first public library was organized in 1890 by a group of civic-minded women who were members of the Ladies Literary Club.  A meager collection of books, some from personal libraries and some purchased from funds raised through strawberry festivals, 25¢ suppers, and subscription drives, was housed in a room above a store on West Main Street.   After the disastrous fire of 1893 swept Main Street, the burned out library was reinstalled in a room over Connell's Drug Store and then later, in an upper room at City Hall.   In 1914, upon a suggestion of local businessman Byron Brown, Alvah N. Belding of the Belding & Bros. Company, Silk Manufacturers, decided to build and give a library to the City of Belding.   On March 21, 1917, the Belding City Council accepted his offer and agreed to maintain the building in like beauty and form as a library for all time.

Mr. Belding selected the architectural firm of Frank Allen & Sons of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and construction began in April of 1917.  The site chosen was an area Mr. Belding had helped clear of timbers when purchased by his father from Charles and Levi Broas in 1855.  Built at a cost of $50,000.00, the 51 ft. X 80 ft. building is of early Greek classical design. The Ionic columns, continuous frieze keystone arches above the entrance and Palladian style windows give the building a look of beauty and elegance. At Mr. Belding’s insistence, only the best building materials were used as is evidenced by the Indiana Bedford cut limestone on the exterior, the Spanish tile roof, the granite front entrance steps, the top-notch oak, white pine, and cypress used for the woodwork and window sashes, and the Vermont Verde antique marble used in the lobby and at the base of the pilasters of the library interiors.

The building was dedicated in memory of Mr. Belding's parents, Hiram and Mary Wilson Belding, and presented to the city on May 14, 1918.  Large crowds gathered for the elaborate dedication ceremonies; business places and industries closed in honor of the occasion.  As Alvah N. Belding was ill, his son, Frederick N. Belding presided over the ceremony.   The library, in addition to the service it provided area residents, became a well-known and appreciated historical landmark.  It is unique in that it is the only building built in Belding by the Belding family still being used for its original purpose.  The chandelier that continues to hang in the library’s main lobby originally hung in the Hotel Belding.  The library was granted designation as a State Historic Site in 1980 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May of 1993.

Throughout the years, library boards and staffs have made changes to the facility to better meet the changing needs of library users.  The Slayton family museum was housed in the lower level until 1964 when it was removed to make room for the children’s collection which had outgrown its space on the main level.

A wheelchair lift was installed in 1979 to give persons with disabilities better access to the main floor collection and services.  Following the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, an audit was conducted to determine the building’s compliance., and it was found lacking.  In response to public concern about accessibility to both levels, the library board began exploring ways to address the issues.  Through this process, it became very evident that space for the growing collections and services was also needed and thus began the process to determine the best way to accommodate all these needs.  A citizens group was formed to assist the board with strategic planning and a vision was born. After selecting a plan designed by SmithGroup, an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation that would add an elevator and expand existing floor space, the library board hired The Breton Group to conduct a feasibility study.  This study was presented to the Belding City Council in 1999.  After input from the city council and more citizen participation, the board began working with city management to find a workable financing plan that would allow this much-needed project to move forward.  In 2005, The Breton Group was again hired as campaign consultants and a core group of passionate, committed citizen volunteers formed the capital campaign committee.  This committee provided the impetus needed for the successful conclusion to the dream.  One-third of the $3.4 million dollar project was raised through gifts and pledges from local area citizens, businesses, civic organizations, and foundations.  A loan from the U.S.D.A. Rural Development Agency provided the remaining funds.  

This project truly represents a community working together to bring about needed change and improvement.  It represents the expanding opportunities that will be provided to all area citizens through its expanded library.  It represents how libraries build communities and how a community is needed to build a library.    Every community deserves a beautiful, well-functioning, resource-rich library.  Today Belding has that library.  Citizens can be very proud of the generous response when asked to help and the philosophy of philanthropic giving is now part of the legacy that is Belding’s future.