A Look Back at the Historic Island House Library

By Terry Miller

My family moved permanently to Elk Rapids in 1955, and I soon learned that one of the best places to hang out was in or near the library, which was already a vibrant part of our village. Margaret Kaiser was the librarian and, as luck would have it, her son Stephen was in my grade at school. That meant we often got special access.

I remember trying to walk up the library steps. To this day, it’s a challenge. The unique design thwarts easy ascent. Inside the library, we would peek into the Village Council Meeting Room, with its massive boardroom table and formidable chairs, it was like Lord of the Rings.

The library grounds were much like today but without any road connection. As kids, we would often run across Library Bridge, but it was even more fun to play on the concrete dam just east of the bridge. The dam was in much better shape those days and above water. A fun but daunting challenge was to walk out to the middle and jump the gap. It was only much later that we learned that this dam was part of the earlier sewer system for the village!

Near the library was the Carriage House, now long gone. For years, it was filled with wooden covers for the town fire hydrants. They were piled up high, every which way, making a perfect place for extreme hide-and-seek.

In high school, I and others briefly taught gun safety in the library basement – possibly the only sustained 22 caliber live fire ever in the village. Shooting was quickly deemed unsafe and unsuitable inside the village limits.

Today, I still enjoy walking the path where the carriage house stood, crossing the bridge and climbing those intriguing steps. I love to sit on the remarkable porch to read, work on an ever-present, in-progress puzzle or just look out over the bay. On one such visit, I went down to the river and watched muskrats swimming to-and-fro.

Our library is a very special place for me. The planned expansion will make it even better, with beautiful views of both the bay and river, an outside raised seating area, teen resource room and a restored parlor/reading room. I urge you to support the ongoing capital campaign and help ensure that our library continues to be a vibrant presence in our village center. - TM