Carnegie Library and City Hall

As we noted in the YMCA Building post, by the late 1890s the city was in need of a library – a real library rather than a room in another building. American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (his family moved from Sctoland when he was 13) was funding libraries all over North America, and Vancouver was viewed favourably for an investment in literature. (There were 125 Carnegie Libraries in Canada, almost all in Ontario, but Victoria and New Westminster got one too). G W Grant was hired to design the building, which was most definitely outside the CPR part of town, on the south-west corner of Westminster (Main) and Hastings. Carnegie donated $50,000 on the basis that the City would donate a site and spend $5,000 a year on running the library.

Work started in 1902 and nearly two years later the library opened. It was located next door to the new City Hall. An earlier City Hall was located at Powell Street in 1888. In 1898 the City moved to the building you can see to the south of the library. It was originally erected in 1889 as a market hall designed by C O Wickenden. It was built of Bowen Island bricks where Mayor David Oppenheimer had a financial interest in the brickworks. Unfortunately the clay, or the firing, wasn’t the finest, and Wickenden had to hastily change the design to add two buttressing towers to make sure the building stayed up.

In 1929 with the amalgamation of two other cities into Vancouver larger premises were needed and Council decamped to the Holden Building, an existing office also altered to become City Hall.

The Library stayed until the early 1950s, taking over the former City Hall as an Annex. After the Library moved to their new building on Burrard Street the Museum used the Carnegie building, and the old City Hall was demolished in 1958. After threats of demolition the renovated Carnegie Centre opened as a social service centre for the Downtown Eastside in 1980, incorporating a branch library and with a subtle addition designed by Downs Archambault to the south.

Image source: Library and Archives Canada

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