As our village celebrates 100 years of being named Shorewood, the Friends of the Shorewood Public Library look back at the 114-year history of the Shorewood Library. The library had humble beginnings in 1903, when our village was called the Village of East Milwaukee, and has grown to be the busy, modern resource it is today.
According to a history written by lifelong resident Sue Rebholz in 2005, the library’s first homes were on Atwater Drive (later named Capitol Drive), where various local businesses housed the small collection made up mostly of materials on loan from Milwaukee County. The library also lived in the basement of the Village Hall for a time.
Like today, the previous Shorewood residents shared a belief in the value of libraries. The chairman of the 1952 committee charged with exploring the need for an independent public library in Shorewood, was quoted as saying:
“A public library is not a vault, nor a vending machine, nor a marble palace that no one enters. It is a place devoted to broadening knowledge and enriching life…An adequate library is a basic sign of civic progress and one of the best community investments.”
Shorewood made that investment. In 1953, Shorewood opened its independent library located on the corner of Capitol Drive and Maryland Avenue where City Market is now located.
Soon village officials and residents knew that the Capitol Drive location was insufficient. Throughout the 1950s, the village proposed possible locations for building a new library. These proposals included the school grounds of Atwater Elementary School and Shorewood High School.
Ten years later, in 1963, ground was broken on the new library in its present location on Shorewood Boulevard and Murray Avenue. The completed library was opened in May of 1965, with the first fountain to follow in August 1965.
By the late 1990s, the library had outgrown its space. After much discussion and public input, a renovation and expansion of the library was approved and Engberg Anderson architects were awarded the contract. This meant a temporary move to the Hubbard Park River Club for the library in 2001.
Opened in 2002, the new library fits the needs of 21st century patrons, but it fulfills the same mission as it has for over one hundred years—to be a resource and a center of activity and knowledge for all members of the community.
In Ms. Rebholz’s history, she quotes Harold Schwartz, long-time Shorewood resident and library supporter, at the time he left the board of the Shorewood Public Library in 1996. He said:
“The library is a great leveler. It is the one place where the wealthy man and the poor man can come in and have access to all the knowledge in the world. It benefits everybody. It is the soul of the community.”
It is good to know that the people of Shorewood have felt the same way we do about our current library for over 100 years. You can celebrate 100 years of Shorewood with the entire Village on May 20, 2017. Learn more on the Village of Shorewood website.
-Submitted by Anne O'Meara