BerkleyAugust 1, 2012
Berkley seeking historical photos for new picture book
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
BERKLEY — The city will soon be getting its own book filled with images from throughout Berkley’s history, but officials won’t be spending a dime of taxpayer money on it. In fact, they won’t be spending any money at all.
As part of the Berkley Historical Committee’s ongoing endeavor to catalog more than a century of history in the city, they are partnering with Arcadia Publishing for the creation of a new picture book simply titled “Berkley, Michigan.” It will feature more than 200 photos of historical significance from the days before Berkley was established as a city in 1932 all the way to the present day.
The City Council unanimously approved the agreement with Arcadia on July 16. According to Councilman Steve Baker, the Historical Committee will be providing all the photos and other content for the book, as well as the labor to organize it all, but Arcadia will be fronting all the costs for its printing and distribution. Any proceeds from the sale of the book will then be used to support the committee’s mission of maintaining the history of Berkley.
“Rather than pocketing the profits ourselves, we will be reinvesting this money right back into the Historical Committee,” Baker said. “There is absolutely no cost to the city here, and none of the volunteers are being paid for their work. We’re not on the hook for anything because Arcadia is banking on the fact that this book will be popular enough to cover all of their costs.”
The book is currently being compiled by Baker, who serves as council liaison to Historical Committee, Committee Chair Sue Richardson and Committee Vice Chair Jeff Tong. The idea was not their own, however; it actually came about when the three co-authors were approached by representatives from Arcadia about it, rather than the other way around. Ultimately, it was an offer too good to pass up.
“We just thought this was a golden opportunity and a great impetus to really get us moving on this project,” Richardson said. “This book can be put together relatively quickly and easily, so that was very attractive to us. We’ve already assembled about 150 historical photographs so far, and we keep unearthing more of them all the time.”
The book will be part of Arcadia’s “Images of America” series, which features more than 7,500 titles. The series chronicles the history of small towns across the country and includes hundreds of vintage photos capturing often forgotten, bygone times and bringing to life the people, places and events that defined each community.
Berkley’s history book will feature images organized into nine chapters. The first four will cover various eras of the city arranged chronologically, while the rest will focus on topics, such as schools, churches, community events and municipal buildings and employees. There will even be a chapter devoted entirely to the Roseland Park Cemetery.
“We see this book as an additional opportunity for the Historical Committee to preserve and promote the rich history of the city in a visual way,” Baker said. “This will be the perfect coffee table book for anyone who is interested in the history of Berkley and wants to learn more about it.”
The photo book will actually be the first part of a two-phase effort by the Historical Committee. The second part will include a complete written history of the city and will be paid for by a public fund that was started this January by former Mayor Marilyn Stephan. Residents can donate to the fund by calling the city manager’s office at (248) 658-3350.
Current Mayor Phil O’Dwyer thanked the Historical Committee for all its hard work in assembling more than 100 years of material. He believes that the books will be a huge success for a city that truly values its history.
“In Berkley, there is a greater sense of community than in many other places, which means that people tend to have tremendous respect for the traditions and customs of their city,” O’Dwyer said. “Many residents also live here for multiple generations; they grow up here and then they come back and raise their own family here. The sense of roots and history is very strong.”
Berkley has already produced a pair of historical documents in years past. The first was created in 1982 by former Daily Tribune journalist and Berkley resident Shirley McLellan, whose “Briefly Berkley” is a collection of her own newspaper columns about her beloved hometown. The second, “Berkley Then and Now,” is a booklet of photographs that was compiled by former City Clerk Mary Hughes in 2007 in honor of the city’s 75th anniversary. But with these two new books, the Historical Committee is aiming to provide a more thorough and comprehensive anthology of Berkley’s evolution than ever before.
According to Baker, the committee plans to have the material for the photo book completed and ready to send to Arcadia by this Thanksgiving. They then hope to have the finished product printed and available for sale at next year’s Berkley Days celebration. It will also be sold at various bookstores in the area, as well as at City Hall, the Public Library, the Historical Museum and such local businesses as the Yellow Door Art Market.
Until then, the committee is still looking for more historical photos and other artifacts to add to the book. Any residents with items that they are willing to share can call Richardson at (248) 545-6844 or e-mail Baker at swbaker@berkley mich.net.
“We’re looking for anything that might have some sort of historical value,” Richardson explained. “We just feel that something like this should really be a community endeavor. Even though there are only three of us actually putting this book together, the history of Berkley really belongs to everyone who lives here.”
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