Some are amazed to find that many libraries in Kent County have local historical organizations involved with a room of their own, right in the library!

When checking federal census records or plat maps, you might find an ancestor from one of the cities or townships in Kent County, Michigan. A look into one of the area libraries and their historical rooms could give you information or photographs that you might not find anywhere else!

Kent County libraries are run by Kent District Library (KDL) in Comstock Park. Michigan. There are 18 branch locations and one phone number (616) 784-2007. Each branch has its own hours, so check online at to see when they are open. Check Facebook for each library’s additional information.

Many area cities and townships have historical organizations with their own libraries and research offices, like the city of Lowell or Alpine, Sparta and Tyrone Townships.  Information can be found on Facebook or at an Internet website.

Kent District Libraries with History Rooms

Caledonia Township branch

Ken Gackler Local History Room at the Caledonia Library. Courtesy of Mary Rasch Alt

The Ken Gackler Local History Room is a repository for local historical items and can be reserved upon request for small group meetings.

“The Ken Gackler room is the finest in the KDL system.” said Shirley Bruursema, KDL  Board of Trustees. “Ken is fantastic; he is organized down to the last detail. Ken was born and raised in this area, so he is dedicated to this library.”

The room is very well equipped for research. There are study tables, computers, information and many books. Ken has collected and organized a good amount of items for the family historian or genealogist.

Cascade Township branch

The Cascade branch started as a bookmobile stop in 1965. A new facility was built in 1996 where a local history room was included and is run by Cascade Historical Society.

Volunteers from the historical society come in on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. to aide in research of the township’s history and review the artifacts available. Suburban Life was a weekly newspaper serving Cascade Township and the surrounding area. Suburban Life was printed from 1955 to 1968 and has been digitized. It is available at the library or online at Look under Learn & Research.

East Grand Rapids History Room, City of East Grand Rapids

History Room, East Grand Rapids Library. Courtesy of Mary Rasch Alt

History Room, East Grand Rapids Library. Courtesy of Mary Rasch Alt

The East Grand Rapids History Room was established in 1987. This room is comprised of a collection unique to West Michigan. First, look at the index compiled by Mary Dersch, curator. It provides access to historical city voting records, tax assessments, paving and sewer installation records, oaths of office, East Grand Rapids High School Interlochen yearbooks, local and Michigan books, ephemera, photographs and memories of bygone days. East Grand Rapids was the home to Ramona Amusement Park from 1897-1954. Reeds Lake was truly a resort area from the 1850s through the 1930s. Large excursion steamboats plied the waters of Reeds Lake during those bygone days. The wreck of the SS Hazel A lies on the bottom of the lake. The history room has photos and information on Reeds Lake.

The EGR History Room is located within the East Grand Rapids Library, but it is a City of EGR entity, as the city owns the building where the library is housed.

Gaines Township branch

The Local history room at the Gaines Township library is filled with photos, memorabilia and information that visually helps in anyone’s research. Photos tell a great story for any historian. There is a collection of high school yearbooks here, with school pillows. Look for a relative in the photo of the Thornapple Valley-Pioneers 40th Annual picnic at Campau Lake in 1924.

Kentwood branch

The Kentwood Historical Preservation Commission has a room at the Kentwood Library. Much of Kentwood was once Parris Township. They have a wonderful collection of information, photos and memorabilia. Have you ever seen an octagonal house or barn? The model of the Vander Laan barn is outstanding. If you have ever been to the Kent County Airport, you will enjoy the photo display on its history.

Plainfield Township branch

This library has its own local history room, cared for by the Plainfield Township Historical Society. It is a nice quiet room for study if you don’t want to go downtown to do your research. There is a small collection of books on local history, Grand Rapids and Kent County directories.

Wyoming branch

The Wyoming Historical Commission has a local history room and archive in the city of Wyoming library. This historical commission was organized to acquire and preserve objects and data relevant to the city of Wyoming’s past, plus the history of the surrounding area. It oversees the local history archives, provides regular public programs and lectures, encourages ongoing research and documentation, sponsors local history publications and partners with schools and other community organizations.

– Mary Rasch Alt (Article appears in Vol 64: Issue 1 of Michigana)