Charlevoix Public Library
The former Charlevoix Middle School, built in 1927, was decommissioned in 2002 when the new high school was opened. It was renovated and re-opened in 2006 as a public library. This showpiece of architecture and workmanship is definitely worth a stop. It also has comfortable reading rooms, children’s areas, and free wireless Internet. Pick up your e-mail while you’re here. 220 W. Clinton St. Charlevoix 231-547-2651 www.charlevoixlibrary.org
Education was a priority for the pioneers of Charlevoix. M.J. Stockman, whose Park Avenue house still stands, lived on the south side of Round Lake in 1861. He and his wife were instrumental in raising funds to build a small log building 16 x 18 feet in size, with a shake roof so low that it barely allowed a person to stand inside, on Lake Charlevoix near where the Belvedere Club is located. Benches and desks were made of split logs.
Mrs. Stockman was the first teacher at this school when it opened in the winter of 1861-1862. The Charlevoix Sentinel reported that “being a married woman she was enabled to make favorable rates for board, and thus derived quite a magnificent revenue from her labors.” She was paid one dollar per week! Various members of the community taught at the school over the next couple of years, and Mrs. Stockman taught again in the summer of 1864.
The first frame school house, according to an 1894 article in the Sentinel, was built in the fall of 1867. The women of the town, impatient at the failure of the legal voters (remember, this was before women could vote) to address the inadequacies of the schoolhouse, had a fair. They sold hand-made items in an auction, and then had dinner — oyster stew, which many of the people in attendance had never eaten. The event was a great success, and nearly all of the dozen or so white families in the area attended, in spite of the winter storm that raged outside. The event raised $75, which was used to build the new school house at the corner of State and Antrim the following spring.
In 1873 a new, larger, frame building was constructued. It had a central steeple and a bell. It caught fire in the spring of 1889, without injury to any of the teachers or pupils who were in the building at the time. It was destroyed. School was conducted in various buildings over the next year, and finally a new brick building, with seven rooms, was constructed at a cost of $22,000. It was outgrown within a few years, when enrollment climbed to today’s levels.
School in the late 1800s consisted of four years of Primary school, four of Grammar school, and four of High School. According to the Sentinel article, which can be read in the Charlevoix Public Library’s online collection, “In the primary grades the teaching is largely objective, thus developing the perceptive powers. In the grammar department the work appeals to the imagination and memory, while in the high school the aim is to develop the thinking power of the student.” The residents of Charlevoix at that time hoped and expected that a college (a “Normal Training School”) would be established here, marking Charlevoix as an educational center. That never happened, but the Charlevoix schools are still a subject of concern and pride by the entire community.
See Rosa Nettleton’s book including exerpts from the Charlevoix Sentinel at the Library’s online collection: http://www.charlevoix.lib.mi.us/research/nettleton/nettleton-main.htm
Copyright 2011 by Charlevoix County History Preservation Society. All rights reserved.