The first attempt to start a library in Benton Harbor took place in 1880, when an old Englishman named Alfred Coats decided the city needed a library. He made room for a collection of 200 books in his photographic studio, located above Hopkins (later Peck's) Drug Store at the corner of Main and Water streets. A sign hung outside his studio proclaiming, "Alfred Coats, Librarian."
When Coats moved his studio, the books were moved to the office of well-known Twin Cities physician, H.V. Tutton (founder of Mercy Hospital). According to later newspaper accounts, interested people then decided the library related to schoolchildren, and so the collection moved to the office of the Superintendent of Schools. In 1892 when the new high school was built, the library was moved into it. The library came to an abrupt end when fire gutted the school.
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