A Short Account Of The Guelph Public Library

Author: H. Douglass

Publication Date: 1964

Edited: 2021


The 76th anniversary of the founding of the City of Guelph was celebrated by the laying of the corner stone of the Guelph Public Library. Mr. James Watt, chairman of the Library Board and one of the most active campaigners for a new building performed the ceremony. The granite stone was a present from Mayor Hamilton.


The Mechanics’ Institute, the first Guelph Public Library, had been located in the upstairs of upper Wyndham Street since 1883. A movement had been put forward to erect a separate building at the turn of the century but had come close to a standstill because of lack of funds and a suitable location. Mr. Watt wrote personally to Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American steel magnate to request funds for a building. Carnegie offered $20,000.00 provided the city donated a site and agreed to pay $2,000.00 annually for the maintenance of the Library. The mayor, Mr. John Kennedy, and the Council of 1902 donated part of the park which formed Nelson Crescent and in the spite of the objections of the citizens over this use of park lands for a building, the building of the new Library commenced.


On Friday evening, September 29, 1905, the Library was formally opened. The cost of the structure – now $24,000.00 – had been paid for by Andrew Carnegie. The building was built of manufactured stone made by the Roman Stone Company of Toronto. The Portland Cast Stone Co. of Guelph made the concrete done and hid the exterior step work. The architect was Mr. W. F. Colwill. John McCann was the mason; John Hughes, head carpenter; J.J. Mahoney, the plasterer; H. Cormie, the painter; Mahoney Brothers, the plumbers; Stevenson and Malcolm looked after the heating; Mr. W. S. King was in charge of wiring; James Morrison Co., Toronto installed the lighting fixtures; The Bond Hardware supplied the hardware; the Canadian Office and School Furniture Company, Preston, provided the shelves, stacks, tables, counter; J. Mundell Co., Elora, supplied the oak chairs.


The stained-glass windows on each side of the main entrance have the arms of the original provinces that entered Confederation. The City Coat of Arms, in stone, overlooks the main entrance. The building committee consisted of James Watt, Chairman, and J.E. Day, S. Terrell, D. McCrae, and Mayor Sleeman.


Colonel D. McCrae and Inspector Tytler had been members of the Free Library Board since its institution. Other initial members in 1883 were Caleb Chase, Mayor; James Coldie, George Bruce, James Cormack, David McCrae, James Innes, William Tytler, Maurice O’Connor, Joseph Harris.