City of Winnipeg Archives
Archives de la Ville de Winnipeg
Links and documents
1903/01/01 to 1908/12/31
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The elegant Carnegie Library, built in two stages between 1903 and 1908, occupies a well-treed site bordered by its original wrought-iron fence in a transitional area between downtown Winnipeg and residential neighbourhoods to the north and west. The two-storey building, clad in smooth-cut and rusticated limestone, is set apart from adjacent structures by its finish, scale and extensive ornamentation. The City of Winnipeg's designation applies to the building on its footprint, the front two rooms on the first and second floors and the iron fence.
The Carnegie Library, the oldest purpose-built public library in Manitoba, is an excellent early example of the Neo-Classical style of architecture applied to a public building. Set back on a large landscaped site, the structure conveys a dignified image, while the words 'FREE TO ALL' over the main entrance and interior spaces that are well-lit and finely appointed invite public use. Designed by Samuel Hooper and built with funds donated by American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the facility was Winnipeg's first and, until 1977, its main library building. As such, it housed the reference, educational and recreational resources that were used by generations of local readers, all in keeping with Carnegie's desire to promote human knowledge and understanding. Though subject to extensive use over the years, the library has retained many original interior finishes and now functions as the City of Winnipeg archives.
Source: City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee Meeting, June 14, 1984
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Carnegie Library site include:
- the placement of the building on a spacious landscaped lot enclosed on most of its perimeter and along the main walkway with a wrought-iron fence
Key external elements that define the library's Neo-Classical style include:
- the temple-like design with its symmetrical plan, fine proportions and smooth and rough-cut limestone cladding
- the projecting, richly embellished and carefully detailed front (north) entrance with its heavy arched opening, sets of Ionic columns, stone balustrade, carved pediment, large second-storey window framed by fluted and squared pilasters, oval windows in ornate frames, etc.
- the simple, elegant wall treatments on the three public facades with the plain, rectangular windows of the ground floor contrasted with round-headed and ornately framed openings of the second floor, pilasters accenting second-storey elevations, a stone belt course separating the two levels, a modest entablature with a parapet punctuated with orbs, etc.
- the second-storey windows, with their delicate wooden mullions, 'spider's web' tracery in the upper sash and original glass
Key internal elements that define the library's Neo-Classical style include:
- the generous and dignified volumes of the main interior spaces, with approximately six-metre-high ceilings in the front rooms on both floors, symmetrically composed and enhanced with a wealth of Classical features and details, including heavily cross-beamed ceilings, engaged square columns, fluted and with simple capitals, tall arched openings, decorative mouldings and friezes, muted colour scheme, etc.
- the ornate marble-accented main interior staircase with heavy railing and turned wooden balusters
Key external elements that define the building's function as a library, and its connection with Andrew Carnegie, include:
- the carved words 'CARNEGIE PUBLIC LIBRARY' and 'FREE TO ALL' on the main entrance and the stone cartouches flanking the entrance with the inscribed words 'HISTORY & LITERATURE' and 'ARTS & SCIENCES'
City of Winnipeg
City of Winnipeg Act
Winnipeg Landmark Heritage Structure
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Winnipeg, Historical Buildings Committee, 15-30 Fort Street, Winnipeg MB, File "380 William Avenue"
Cross-Reference to Collection