Then and Now: Chelsea's McKune Memorial Library

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A sketch of the McKune Hotel in 1874. Photo credit: Chelsea Area Historical Society

From Chelsea Area Historical Society

Did you know that Chelsea has had a library since 1877?

Chelsea’s first library was located in various places around town and supported by volunteers from the Ladies Association of Chelsea also known as Chelsea Library Association. The first librarian was hired in 1941, and the library moved to the second floor of the Municipal Building above city offices on East Middle Street in 1946. (Now two apartments above Moran’s Consignment and Breathe Yoga.)

A photo of the McKune Memorial Library taken in 1978 with the long front porch added. Photo credit: Chelsea Area Historical Society.

The library found a permanent home in the brick Italianate mansion that was built by founder Elisha Congdon in 1860. The mansion is a twin of the Martha Washington mansion in Ann Arbor. After Congdon died seven years later, the mansion was sold to Timothy McKune and became a fashionable hotel for train and stagecoach travelers. His son, Edward, took over the hotel in 1909. But with fewer people needing overnight lodging due to automobiles, it eventually became a rooming house.

Katherine Staffan McKune, Edward’s widow, left her house to the Village of Chelsea for perpetual use as a library. The McKune Memorial Library opened in 1958.

With a sizable addition in 2006 and an expanded concept, the Chelsea District Library returned this historical site to a hub of activity once again.

The McKune Memorial Library as it is today. Photo credit: Chelsea District Library
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Thank you for this article. We have lost so many beautiful and historic structures in Washtenaw County. Wonderful to see this one repurposed as a library!

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