The Way It Was

Ginsburg Branch, Detroit Public Library, 1916


photograph courtesy of The Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

1916There are many educators and parents today who lament that children, so enraptured by video games, texting, and social media, aren’t interested in old-fashioned books, or the flights of imagination a young mind can take after hearing a story read to them. Flash-back 102 years to this photo of wee ones, undistracted by the internet, smart phones, and music-streaming services, crowding the outside of the Ginsburg branch of the Detroit Public Library in anticipation of listening to story hour — and on a Saturday morning yet. Thrills may have been cheap then, but they ignited and fed the imagination. The Ginsburg branch, named after Detroit Public Library board member Bernard Ginsburg, who was also a successful businessman and philanthropist of Jewish charities, opened in 1916 at 91 Brewster St. The library’s predecessor was the Hastings Street branch, meant only as a temporary outlet, which opened in 1913. Hastings Street became linked with the African-American neighborhood known as Black Bottom, but preceding that time, Hastings was a predominantly Jewish enclave. In 1898, Ginsburg had a stately home built on Adelaide Street, in the Brush Park neighborhood, and the structure still stands today. In time, the Ginsburg branch witnessed decreased attendance, and the building was turned over to the city’s recreation department in the late 1920s.


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