Dedicated in 1890, the Hackley Public Library was the first gift to the city of Muskegon from philanthropist Charles H. Hackley. Since then, it has become one of Muskegon's most notable landmarks and a mainstay in the lives of Muskegon's residents. The library is a work of art on the inside and out, featuring leaded glass windows, large fireplaces, and historic paintings. It has recently been undergoing an extensive renovation.
The Hackley Public Library was the first
of many gifts to the people of Muskegon by lumber baron Charles Henry Hackley, one
of Muskegon’s millionaires and its greatest philanthropist. He donated $175,000
to its construction in 1888, along with an endowment. The three-story
Romanesque-style building was dedicated on October 15, 1890.
The main floor
holds the reference and circulation desks, adult fiction and non-fiction, computer
lab, and reading rooms. The basement level has a lecture space and staff
offices, while the top level is the children’s section. It was in this top
floor that Hackley lay in state after his death in 1905, and thousands of people filed
passed for days paying their respects to this generous man for what he had
given back to his community.
The library is well-known for its
unusual opaque glass floor in its non-fiction section. There are beautiful
stained glass windows throughout the building, especially in the main reading
room and around the tower stairwell, along with large, ornate fireplaces. There
is a large painting on the main floor of Charles Hackley standing on the steps
of the library and gifting the deed to the City of Muskegon, surrounded by many
members of the local community. Other paintings around the library feature
Hackley’s wife, Julia, and some of the early settlers in Muskegon, and a mural around
the length of the children’s section.
The library holds
an exact replica copy of the Book of Kells, an intricately-decorated gospel
manuscript created by Irish monks around 800 BCE. The library started a
fund-raising campaign to purchase the replica for $14,800 in 1990. It is
probably the only facsimile edition of the Book of Kells on permanent display
in a public library in North America. The pages of the copy are turned once a
Hackley said that he agreed with Dale
Carnegie, who wrote that “the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”. The building
was given by Hackley under the condition that it remain free to the public for
as long as it stands. In recent years, millions of dollars has gone into an ongoing
campaign to renovate and restore the building. 2