Remarkable Link Between Projects / by Tamara Burns

There is a surprising link between two historic projects currently on the boards at HBDS!  Both Gordon Hall in Dexter and the Elk Rapids District Library were owned in the early 20th Century by Katharine Dexter McCormick, who was a remarkable person in her own right.

Katharine Dexter McCormick was actually born in Gordon Hall, which was built by her grandfather, Samuel W. Dexter.  Samuel W. Dexter was a founding father of the Village of Dexter, and a noted abolitionist.  Gordon Hall is generally accepted to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad, and HBDS is involved in the ongoing restoration of this local landmark.  In 1950 Katharine Dexter McCormick donated the hall to the University of Michigan, who later sold it to its current owner, the Dexter Area Historical Society.

 Gordon Hall, Dexter Michigan

Gordon Hall, Dexter Michigan

 

Meanwhile, “up north”, Katharine Dexter McCormick was the last private owner of the house on the “Isle of Pines”, where the Elk River flows into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.  The house had been built by Dexter native Edwin Noble, a friend and business partner of Katharine’s father, Wirt Dexter.  In 1948 Katharine Dexter McCormick deeded it to the town of Elk Rapids which converted the house into a library in 1949.  Today HBDS is working on the renovation and expansion of this beloved local landmark.

 Elk Rapids District Library, Elk Rapids, Michigan

Elk Rapids District Library, Elk Rapids, Michigan

 

Born in Dexter in 1875, Katharine Dexter McCormick was a biologist, suffragist and philanthropist.  She was the second woman to graduate from MIT.  Katharine left her mark as a noted activist and philanthropist, and is credited with funding the research which developed the first oral contraceptive.   You never know what background studies for historic preservation will turn up!

Sources:  http://www.elkrapidslibrary.org/about-the-library/history-of-the-library.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_McCormick