Carnegie Libraries: Yorkville

Welcome to our fourth Ontario Carnegie Library: the Toronto Public Library’s Yorkville branch. The Toronto Public Library’s (TPL) oldest branch moved into its new Yorkville home in 1907 when it was re-located from rented space in a building nearby1. The Village of Yorkville only became part of the city of Toronto in 1883, but within a year, the Toronto Public Library had opened its first branch, and it was located in Yorkville.1

Toronto Public Library’s Yorkville Branch

As noted in previous Carnegie Library posts, this branch also features several Carnegie characteristics, such as imposing columns and wide front stairs to a single-level structure. It opened to the public on June 13, 1907, and according to the TPL1, cost a whopping $27,328.65

The last Carnegie branches that were built for the TPL (1916) omitted those well-known telltale features, but the Yorkville branch remains a classic example of the earlier Carnegie architectural style.

“TPL’s oldest branches were built when the concept of free public libraries was still new, fought for by the Public Library Movement that saw access to education as an essential antidote to the vices of the city. As a result, these first libraries (Yorkville, Annette Street) were built to imbue confidence in a newly enshrined municipal service โ€“ and are well-protected from the vices of the street by stone staircases and Doric columns.”2

Detail of the main entrance

Ten years after the Yorkville branch opened, Carnegie libraries would display “an entirely new style of one-room institutions with vaulted ceilings” that would “better serve a libraryโ€™s function and better meet the needs of its patrons,” thanks to a much stronger influence of the city’s chief librarian, George H. Locke3.

In 1973 this building made it onto the Toronto Historical Board’s list of Heritage Properties, and while 1994 saw a reduction in service hours, 2010 brought about an increase, and this branch continues to serve the local community for 62 hours every week4 (pandemics notwithstanding).

For more Yorkville history, and some great photos of the branch in its early years, visit the Yorkville Library’s webpage via the TPL. Thank you again for stopping by! ๐Ÿ’œ

Sources:
1. https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/about-the-library/library-history/carnegie-yorkville.jsp
2. Rotsztain, Daniel. Globe & Mail May 22, 2015 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/then-there-were-100-why-the-toronto-public-librarys-newest-branch-is-the-perfect-modern-library/article24572738/
3. Plummer, Kevin. Torontoist.com, Oct. 25, 2008 https://torontoist.com/2008/10/historicist_andrew_carnegies_toronto_legacy
4. https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/yorkville/
http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/libraries/carnegie.shtml

Carnegie Libraries: Woodstock

Next stop on our tour of Carnegie libraries in Ontario is the Woodstock Public Library. And what a magnificent one it is!

Woodstock Public Library, built in 1909

I’m ashamed to admit that I had no idea there was such a wealth of history and historic architecture in Woodstock. But there are a great many beautiful and well-maintained buildings in this city, and one of them is the public library. Unlike the other Carnegie libraries we have visited in this blog, the Woodstock Public Library actually began almost a century before its current home was built. According to TourismOxford.ca, a Reading Society was formed in Woodstock in 1835. It was a private group with an annual fee, and it was known as the “Woodstock Subscription Library” by 1836.

Detail of the portico

By 1840, the society had grown to 60 members, and by 1935, there were over 3,300! (WPL – history) In the gap between those years, the Carnegie Foundation provided a grant of $24,000.00, and the Woodstock Public Library opened to the public in 1909. In 1976, it was designated as a historic building.

The imposing entrance showing the characteristic ‘Carnegie stairs’ and ‘Carnegie basement’ that were so often incorporated into these libraries

The WPL has its own Twitter feed, with links to numerous resources on wellness, the promotion of literacy, programming for all ages, and a whole lot more. With all the COVID restrictions in effect lately, this library was closed when I was there, but things are starting to open up again, and we can hope that all our libraries will soon be the thriving community hubs they have always been.

Thanks again for stopping by! Stay tuned for the next installment of our Carnegie Libraries travelogue soon. ๐Ÿ’œ

Sources:
WPL History: https://www.mywpl.ca/library-history
History of Woodstock PL: www.tourismoxford.ca/listing/detail/ArticleId/12890/History-of-the-Woodstock-Public-Library.aspx
Woodstock Public Library Twitter: https://twitter.com/WoodstockLib

Carnegie Libraries: Amherstburg

Picturesque Amherstburg sits along the Detroit river in Southwestern Ontario, just south of Windsor in Essex county. Replete with historic buildings, this quaint little town is a history-lover’s dream, with buildings from the War of 1812, and ties to rum running and the Underground Railroad.

Essex County Library – Amherstburg branch

The Essex County Library branch in Amherstburg is another public library that was funded by Andrew Carnegie. He provided $10,000 in 1911, and the library opened to the public in 1913. In 1987 the building was granted Heritage Designation, and it’s no wonder: the building is made from limestone quarried in the former township of nearby Anderdon, and features many characteristics that are typical of Carnegie libraries. This is another rare example of a library built just after the turn of the last century that has maintained continual, uninterrupted service as a library!

Town of Amherstburg historic plaque for their public library funded by Andrew Carnegie

This beautiful structure was built on the site of a hotel that burned down in 1895. At that time, the town’s library was housed on Dalhousie street, and in 1901, it was moved to a building on Ramsay street before finally settling into the newly constructed location in 1913, where it remains to this day.

Detail of the imposing archway over the main entrance

According to a brief history of the library, as described by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, there was much back-and-forthing between Mr. Carnegie and the Amherstburg Town Clerk before the grant was agreed to. The architects who built the library submitted plans with design elements that Carnegie has previously approved, incorporating “Carnegie Stairs” and a “Carnegie Basement,” which are found in many other of his public libraries.

When the Amherstburg library moved into its new home on Sandwich street in 1913, it had just 6,000 volumes. But, by 1935, “Ontario Library Inspector F. C. Jennings stated in his report that the Amherstburg Library was one of the most complete and up to date in the County.” (https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/oha/details/file?id=420, page 6)

This concludes our second library travelogue. Thank you for traveling with me to Amherstburg! Look for the next Carnegie Libraries installment on BookNotes soon. ๐Ÿ’œ

Sources:
http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/libraries/carnegie.shtml
https://essexcounty.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=386befd577814c4f86e041837af7fab5
https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/oha/details/file?id=420
https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/amherstburg-to-mark-librarys-history/wcm/2a7652cf-80ce-4f27-936f-7a8015bd6e9d/
https://www.amherstburg.ca/en/live-and-play/heritage-designations.aspx
https://www.werelate.org/wiki/Place:Anderdon,_Essex,_Ontario,_Canada

Carnegie Libraries: Paris

Brant Public Library – Paris branch

Andrew Carnegie is famous for his philanthropic donations in support of public libraries, and in fact, his donations resulted in 125 public libraries being built in Canada, 111 of which were in Ontario. Not all of the libraries remain in use today, but the one in Paris, Ontario still does.

Interesting tidbit: unlike many public libraries that were built near the turn of the last century, the Paris public library has been in continual use as such since it was built. A list of head librarians through the years can be found at the County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections website, along with the building’s timeline.

Paris Public Library first opened to the public on July 27, 1904.

Voted ‘the Prettiest Little Town in Canada’ by Harrowsmith Magazine, Paris is replete with natural beauty (it lies between two rivers) and architectural delights, featuring a great many well-kept Victorian buildings.

Fun fact: both Alexandrea Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie have ties to this little town. On August 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received the world’s first successful long-distance telephone call here; and as we know, Andrew Carnegie sponsored our featured library, tying both of these great men to the humble town of Paris, Ontario.

Doric columns are featured on the library’s former facade.

I hope you enjoyed this tiny library travelogue. There are several Carnegie libraries that I plan to feature in this new section of BookNotes, so please stay tuned for the next one!

Sources:
http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/libraries/carnegie.shtml
http://images.ourontario.ca/brant/3281106/data?dis=dm
http://images.ourontario.ca/brant/2713035/data
https://oaa.on.ca/bloaag-detail/Carnegie-Libraries/327
https://www.brant.ca/en/live-and-discover/paris.aspx#