The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library will be celebrating its centennial anniversary on May 19th this year. It will be a small event, hosted by current staff and supporters, not unlike the celebration that took place 100 years ago. You can read all about the history of the library here.
The official dedication of the current library happened on May 14, 1918, and it was a grand affair. The committee that organized the event were a group of dedicated folks, who worked hard to see that all who attended enjoyed the celebration. Workmen installed the “big Chautauqua tent” along with a stage and chairs for audience attendees to enjoy the ceremony in comfort. Organizers expressed to one another that, “this day will be a day to remember!” and it was.
Many important people attended. Some of them would travel to Belding from as far away as California, Montreal, and Connecticut. Alvah Belding, of the Belding family, for which the town is named, planned to travel to Belding in his car with his son, Fred and some close friends. Milo M. Belding, Alvah’s brother, would come from his home in New York and as the saying went, “All roads lead to Belding.” It was not unusual for important folks to travel to Belding on those familiar roads. When they did come to town for business, they could stay in the Belding Hotel in luxury and comfort. And finally, U.S. Senator, William Alden Smith, also known as the Titanic Senator, because of his involvement in the investigation of the Titanic disaster, attended and spoke at the dedication ceremony.
To allow everyone an equal opportunity in the Belding community to attend the ceremony, organizers placed all schools on a half-day schedule. All mill workers ended their workday at noon and stores closed early.
For the program itself, organizers selected the Belding Cornet Band, a favorite band in town for many years, to play an introduction. Rev. W.A. Bliss offered an opening prayer. The Star Spangled Banner was played to alert attendees of ceremonies about to begin. A dedication speech made by Mayor E. F. Fales formally accepted the Belding family gift of the new physical building of the new library. Alden W. Smith addressed the audience, and Rev. P. Ray Norton closed the ceremony with a benediction. The Cornet Band played the conclusion. After the ceremony, attendees enjoyed a tour of the new building and refreshments to the pleasant sounds of a male quartet courtesy of the Fountain Street Baptist Church out of Grand Rapids.
Alvah never saw the dedication. He fell ill shortly before his planned trip. Instead, his son Fred stepped in to preside over the ceremony. The dedication of this library and its centennial encapsulates 100 years of a community center for the city of Belding. You could say it is even the heart of the city. Even though a close neighbor, the Belrockton is also considered a center and perhaps closer in the minds of folks who live in Belding. It is the library, however, that preserves the history of Belding and its people. Today the library is not just a depository of books and artifacts, but it is a peaceful and serene place to spend time reflecting on the past or the future.