Niagara Falls: The Old Carnegie Library

Niagara Falls Carnegie Library
5017 Victoria Avenue at Armoury Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Built 1910
Architect / Designer:  William Nichols  (1850-1919) 

Builder:    Alonzo Robertson

This building is interesting, as it represents the expansion of public libraries in Canada.  One hundred and eleven Carnegie Libraries were built in Ontario, as part of a literacy initiative of Andrew Carnegie, whose wealth was based on the steel industry.  Many of the original books came as donations from the community. 

The building was used as a library until 1974, and then became the base for various community functions.

The building is similar to many other Carnegie libraries, being built in the neo-classic "beaux arts" form that was popular in the late 19th century, especially in the United States, although, in this case, might be seen as rather restrained, or even stripped down.  In particular, the large columns that characterise many Carnegie libraries are not present, although a neo-classic pediment was constructed over the entry. 

The building is considerably simpler, and presumably cost relatively less than other Carnegie Libraries, such as that in nearby St.Catharines (now demolished).  Features that might be noted are the symmetry of the fa├žade, and the polychromatic choice of materials, with a limestone basement, with the upper portions being of red brick, with yellow brick quoins.  The viewer might consider the details of how the building presents itself to the street.   

Contrasts with more modern libraries might be made.  The large windows would be of value in the time of early electric lighting.  Like most Carnegie Libraries in Ontario, it has a raised main level, enabling the basement to have reasonably-sized windows, but in today's world, not particularly accessible.

Ask yourself:  
- What possible uses might exist for such a building?
- What are the heritage aspects that might be most important to retain in any repurposing of this building?