Project Description

The Mark Twain Branch of the Detroit Public Library was built in 1940 to replace a smaller, older library that was on the same site.  The original library was the George Osius Branch of the Detroit Public Library.  The George Osius Branch was built in 1914 and was named after Mr. George Osius, who was a former Detroit Library Commissioner for many years.  The Mark Twain Branch was named after Mr. Mark Twain, who was famous author and humorist.  The George Osius Branch, and then the Mark Twain Branch were both located at 8500 Gratiot Ave, at the corner of Burns Street, on Detroit’s east side.  The Mark Twain Branch was a two-story, all brick structure, designed by Wirt C. Rowland in a Romanesque-architectural style.  The interior of the library featured vaulted ceilings and Pewabic Pottery-tiled fireplaces.  The Mark Twain Branch also featured more than 20,000 books on the shelves.  In the it’s heyday, Mark Twain Branch served as a special event host and a social hub for many ceremonies and celebrations.

The Detroit Public Library started to run into financial problems in the early 1980’s, closing several branches and deferring maintenance on others.  The Mark Twain Branch was initially one of these branches that were scheduled to close, but the State of Michigan saved the library from closing it’s doors for good.  Unfortunately, it would only be temporality as the Mark Twain Branch couldn’t hold on much longer.  By the 1990’s, the Mark Twain Branch was only open part-time and served only a handful of people.

In 1997, the Mark Twain Branch closed for renovations roof repairs, but due to budgeting problems, it would never reopen.

In 1998, the Mark Twain “annex” was opened in the basement of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and much of the collection and equipment were moved to that location.  Over the next several years, some work was done on the library, but most of it was delayed and stalled, leaving the library to deteriorate and crumble.

By 2009 the Mark Twain Branch was in visible decline, with broken windows, falling bricks, and holes in the roof.  With it’s shelves of decaying books, the Mark Twain Branch became a very visible symbol of the mismanagement that was happening in Detroit.  The Mark Twain Branch sat open for a few years before being demolished.

In 2011, the Mark Twain Branch of the Detroit Public Library was demolished.

As of 2015, an empty lot sits where the Mark Twain Public Library once stood.

 

Mark Twain Branch of the Detroit Public Library in 2010:

 

Mark Twain Branch of the Detroit Public Library in 2011: