North Bay Carnegie Library Heritage Site Plaque

Site P19:
North Bay Carnegie Library Heritage Site Plaque
Location:
200 McIntyre Street
Evaluation Score:
N/A

North Bay Public Libraries have been located on this downtown block – bordered by McIntyre, Wyld, Worthington and Sherbrooke Streets – since 1914 when a Carnegie Library opened its doors.

The Carnegie wasn’t North Bay’s first library. In 1895, D.J. McKeown and L.P. Snyder persuaded the Board of Trade to support the creation of a library. At the time, there were fewer than two thousand residents and the town consisted of five mud streets near the Canadian Pacific tracks. A Public Library Board was formed in August 1895 with North Bay’s first Town Solicitor, A.G. Browning, as the first President. The library opened upstairs in the Cormack Block on Main Street West on October 12th, 1895. The collection started with 152 books and a selection of newspapers and magazines housed in two large rooms. For a time, the same premises served as both a library and as town council chambers.

After a few months as a subscription library ($1 a year) the Board petitioned council to make it a free public service, eligible for provincial funding. This occurred in August 1896 making the North Bay Public Library the oldest in Northern Ontario under the Public Library Act. The collection was then augmented by the donation of a number of books from the Canadian Pacific’s Library Train. Early in the 20th century the Board considered moving and in February 1906 the Library’s mandate was re-established by official town by-law and for several years it was domiciled in the Town Hall at the corner of McIntyre and Ferguson Streets.

In 1910 member Judge J.A. Valin spurred the Board into asking Council to apply to the Carnegie Foundation for help in constructing a public library building – no further north than the far side of McIntyre, as beyond that was regarded as the hinterlands! Andrew Carnegie was a Scotsman who emigrated to North America in 1848 and became a multi-millionaire after founding the largest iron and steelworks in the U.S. During his lifetime he gave away some 350 million dollars and funded libraries around the world. In 1911 council advised the Foundation that the town would provide a suitable site (at the corner of Wyld and McIntyre) and supply $1500 a year for maintenance. In turn the Carnegie Foundation donated $15,000 to the Board. Local architect H.W. Angus handled the design and the Carnegie Library opened 1914 at a cost of $17,790.

Fronting here on McIntyre Street, the Carnegie served the citizens for the next fifty plus years. In 1960 a one story side addition was built to expand children’s services, but it eventually became obvious that the building was becoming too small to serve the area’s growing population. A new library was built in 1966 fronting on Worthington Street East, a mere few steps from the Carnegie site, and this building continues to serve the public. The Carnegie continued as an office building until it was demolished in 1972 to make room for the uniquely designed glass cube with pod council chambers City Hall which opened in 1976.