Right in the heart of the Beach, just a few steps from the intersection of Queen Street and Lee Avenue is the Beaches Library, a stunning building designed by architect Eden Smith in the 17th Century English Collegiate Grammar School Style. A $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York City to the Toronto Public Library facilitated the construction. The current building replaced a storefront library and was opened in December of 1916.
Wordsworth – the famous sculpture outside the front entrance
Two other nearly identical libraries (the Wychwood and High Park Branch) were opened around the same time, and George Locke, the chief librarian wanted the three buildings to “bring to the minds of the people of the outlying districts some recollection of the Scottish and English village type architecture. The design was actually considered to be a “decided revolt” from the Classical styling of other Carnegie libraries.
The majestic Reading Hall
The building is impressive and features a soaring hammer-beamed ceiling, a plain stone fireplace, lead-glass casement windows, and a minstrel gallery. In 2004, the western section of the Library was renovated and restored and reopened to the public in January of 2005. The new two-level wing represents a harmonious architectural addition to the existing building that integrates extremely well into the design. Since 1979 the Toronto Beaches Library has been included in the Inventory of Toronto Heritage Properties.
I had had several opportunities to visit the Beaches Library: as a meeting place for historic tours with Gene Domagala, when Barbara Weissmann, the Branch Head of the library, provided me with historical background information about the Beach, and as a special stop in my Beach tour with Sandra Bussin, who considers the Beaches Library her favourite building in the Beach.
The giant tapestry in the Reading Room