Organized in 1852 as the outgrowth of a reading circle of three women, the Ladies Library Association sought to stimulate learning and culture in Kalamazoo. Designed by Chicago architect Gay, the building resembles the works of Frank Furness, best exemplified in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1871–1876) in Philadelphia. The building, constructed by Bush and Patterson of Kalamazoo, is two stories in height and 30 × 60 feet in plan. The steeply pitched, slate-covered, hipped roof echoes the Furness character. A stair tower fronted by an entrance porch rises on the north. This picturesque building, with its orange-red brick walls with lighter limestone trim, decorative tiles, and rich corbeling, is a superb example of High Victorian Gothic. The unusual shed-dormered tower has the appearance of that on a Norwegian stave church. The first floor holds a library, a meeting room, and a museum; the second, an auditorium or lecture hall with a stage. Stained glass depicting literary scenes from Milton, Shakespeare, Burns, Cooper, Longfellow, and Hawthorne, made by W. H. Wells and Company of Chicago, appears in windows throughout. A gargoyle spout also adds to its medieval appearance.
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Ladies Library Association Building
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