Often people ask if the charming building on Portage Street was originally a church. Children call it "The Castle." But the boy on the copper weathervane has been quietly reading his book atop the Washington Square Branch Library since the summer afternoon when it first opened in 1927.
Library service to what was then known as the South Side began in 1910 when a branch library was opened in the basement of the old Portage Street School, between Lay and Lane Boulevards. When the school became overcrowded in 1919, the branch was moved to a store building at 1348 Portage Street. There the use of the library doubled, so a new building was planned. Some people wanted the new branch to be located near a school, others in a park, but Miss Flora Roberts, who was then director of Kalamazoo Public Library, prevailed upon the Kalamazoo Board of Education to select a site following the trend of locating libraries near shopping centers.
The only lot that was available near the Washington Square business district was an irregularly shaped one on the edge of the celery fields. This was purchased by the board in 1923. Miss Roberts worked closely with local architect M. J. Billingham to design a building that would fit the lot, meet the requirements of good library architecture and serve both adults and children. That the building is still in use, essentially unchanged, more than three-quarters of a century later, is a tribute to their vision.