“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared May 24, 1998.
W.R. Castell (Central) Library
• 616 Macleod Trail S.E.
• Built: 1962-1963 (south side), 1972-1974 (north side extension)
• Architect: J.H.(Jiggs) Cook and Associates of Calgary. This architectural firm also designed Toronto Dominion Square, Transalta, Nova and the Calgary Herald Building completed in 1981.
• Contractor: Poole Construction Company Limited (south side), Cana Construction (north side)
• Original cost: $1.2 million (south), $2 million (north extension)
• Construction materials: Reinforced concrete and steel (south), post and beam (north).
• Original interior details: Six storeys. In 1963 the sixth floor included a 210 seat circular auditorium complete with stage and a movie projection room, teak paneled board room, public meeting rooms, executive and administrative offices. Fifth floor - workshop area for receiving, cataloguing, processing of materials and equipment for repairing and rebinding damaged books. Third floor - fines arts and recreation section with records, films and listening room. Second floor - reference and technical library with "photo-electric copying service" for the public. Main floor - adult fiction and browsing area complete with easy chairs. Basement - children's section, story telling room and newspaper reading room. Innovative features included the book chute and central vacuum cleaner. "The interior designers used an orange, gold and blue-green color plan, with teak book shelves and catalogue cabinets. Nsugahyde upholstery, white formica tables and blue and nutmeg carpeting and airy saranette drapes complete the scheme."
• Serious discussions about the construction of a new Central Library began in 1954. Suggestions were made for additions to Memorial Park Library or demolition of the sandstone structure built in 1911-12 to accommodate a new structure. At the same time alternate sites were proposed, including Mewata Park.
• Plebiscites in 1955 and 1956 defeated proposals for a new Central Library. Considerable controversy erupted over the proposed downtown site.
• January 31, 1962 construction contract awarded to Poole Construction Company Limited, the lowest of 12 bids.
• Construction began February 1962 with removal of asphalt from the property which had formerly been the site of a service station.
• Officially opened Saturday June 15, 1963 by Alberta's Lieutenant-Governor J. Percy Page, the library housed close to 100,00 books and a full-time staff of 41.
• The building was part of a group of newly constructed buildings which included the police station, city administration building and a renovated city hall.
• In 1974, a 6 storey addition, the same size as the 1962 building, was constructed to the north, on the site of the former Nagler's Furniture Store. The expansion which included a second floor theatre to seat 500, resulted in the rearrangement of departments and the moving of more than a million items.
• The addition was officially opened April 21, 1974 by renowned Canadian author, W.O. Mitchell and renamed the W.R. Castell Central Library in honour of the Director of Libraries 1945 - 1972.
• In 1990 renovations included upgrading of mechanical and electrical, reorientation of the front entrance and interior alterations designed to meet the library and information needs of Calgarians at the "busiest public library in Canada."
• In addition to the W.R. Castell Central Library, Calgary Public Library currently has seventeen branches located throughout the city.