“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared August 3, 1997.
Memorial Park Library
• 1221-2nd Street S.W.
• Built: 1910-1912
• Architect: McLean and Wright of Boston, Massachusetts
• Contractor: Richard A. Brocklebank (multi-term Calgary alderman)
• Craftsmen: George Christie (head stonemason) and locally hired Scottish stonecutters
• Original cost: $100,000 ($80,000 grant from American industrialist Andrew Carnegie and $20,000 from the City of Calgary)
• Construction materials: yellow Paskapoo sandstone quarried at Calgary's Oliver Quarry. Load bearing sandstone walls (smoothly finished) backed with brick. Copper roof. Douglas fir floors, mahogany and birch trim.
• Architectural style: Classical with strong influence of Beaux-Arts tradition. Decorative shell motive on roof originally carved in sandstone. Classically inspired portico. Front entrance flanked by Ionic columns and topped by an elaborately carved pediment. Balconies with iron railings off the largest first storey windows. Latticing in the smaller second storey windows.
• Original interior details: On both sides of the foyer marble staircases led to the second floor. Two main floor fireplaces trimmed with mahogany. Moulded plaster columns and ceilings. Exterior entrance - granite steps and mahogany doors. Back walls gracefully curved with an expanse of windows which allowed a view of the park. Basement; walk-in vault, newspaper room. Main floor; reading room, children's room, reference room, stacks and cataloguing room. Second floor; lecture hall with stage, technical reading room and women's reading room.
• built on 4.78 acres owned by the city since 1889. The library site was chosen by plebiscite on August 12, 1908.
• Chief Librarian, Alexander Calhoun described the park as " an unsightly wilderness of sand and scrub." Still to be landscaped when the library opened in 1912, it was gradually transformed by city Parks Superintendents, particularly William Reader, into a beautiful formal park in the late Victorian tradition. Park became a civic showcase and a botanical experiment.
• by October 1908 site excavation was done and construction work began
• February 1910 contractor Brocklebank and architects McLean and Wright visited Attleboro, Massachusetts Public Library which they had also designed. The architectural plans for Attleboro and Calgary were almost identical.
• Calgary was Alberta's first public library and the first library structure in the province financed by wealthy American steel industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
• During a 33 year period Carnegie financed 2,811 libraries world-wide.
• construction completed in 1911, library officially opened January 2, 1912.
• during the first three months, five thousand Calgarians (city's population was 40,000) became library members.
• Central Park Library became the cultural centre of the city. Meeting place for educational and arts groups; Calgary Women's Literary Club, Historical Society of Calgary, Calgary Natural History Society, Calgary Arts Association.
• home to Calgary College 1911-1915 (first attempt at establishing a University of Calgary)
• in 1928 the park was re-named Memorial Park when Cenotaph was unveiled on Remembrance Day to commemorate the name change and those who died during the war.
• building was Calgary's main library until 1963 when the six - storey W.R.Castell Library opened on Macleod Trail.
• Memorial Park Branch library maintained in basement 1963-1967
• 1964-1973 building leased to Glenbow Foundation as an archives and research centre
• declared a Provincial History Resource in 1976
• 1977 - $1.1 million interior/exterior rehabilitation project funded by municipal and provincial grants and private donations.
• re-opened October 16, 1977 as Memorial Park Branch Library. Second floor space rented to Muttart Art Gallery.
• in 2002 celebrating 90 years of library service to Calgarians, Memorial Park is one of 17 branch libraries in the Calgary Public Library system.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared June 4, 2002.
Central/Memorial Park Library
1221 2nd St. S.W., 1912
• Central Park Library opened in January 1912 as Alberta's first purpose-built public library. American steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie paid 80 per cent of the $100,000 cost, while the city kicked in 20 per cent. It became the Memorial Park Library following the 1928 dedication of the war memorial at the park's west end, near 4th Street S.W.
• The library building, designed by Boston architects and built of locally quarried sandstone, was designated a provincial historic resource in 1976. Today the Calgary Public Library has 16 branches, including Memorial Park, and is the second-largest public library system in Canada.