Carnegie Library - Riverdale

Address: 370 Broadview Avenue
Architect: Robert McCallum, City Architect
Opened: 1910, October 19

Riverdale Branch Library opened on October 19, 1910. It was the last of four libraries constructed with a $350,000 grant made by Andrew Carnegie to Toronto Public Library in 1903. Designed in a Georgian Revival style by Robert McCallum, City Architect, the branch was constructed of red brick with white Ohio sandstone trim at a cost of $24,174. Located at the "great transfer corner" at Broadview and Gerrard streets, Riverdale was one of only six corner library buildings built in Ontario with Carnegie funds.

Riverdale Branch history panel (2016) (PDF)

Major Alterations

1927 Boys and Girls room addition opened January 23. W. S. Butler, Architect.
1979 Renovation and addition by Noel Hancock, David Simpson, Architects.
1991 Renovation and addition by Quadrangle Architects. Closed 2 December – 1993, 29 March.

Heritage Status

1977 Listed on Inventory of Heritage Properties, adopted by Toronto City Council, February 6.

Carnegie Library - Riverdale, 1910 (photo)

Riverdale Branch was one of the first libraries in Toronto to be designed using the "open shelf" system, adopted by the Toronto Public Library Board in 1909. This system allowed borrowers in branches to browse for books themselves instead of having to ask library staff to retrieve them. Riverdale was also one of the first libraries in Canada to use radial open stacks. There were 2,500 books in the collection when the branch opened in 1910, and a capacity for 15,000 books.

"This Library in its planning." Chief Librarian George Locke commented in 1910, "provides for economic control and supervision and is the latest word in what is termed 'library economics.'"1 From the receiving counter, library staff had a clear view of the main entrance, the stack room, and the reading rooms. "No one can enter or leave the building without coming under the notice of the librarian at the desk,"2 the Toronto Mail and Empire observed in 1910.

1Toronto Public Library, Annual Report, 1910, [10]
2Toronto Mail and Empire, October 20, 1910

Carnegie Library - Riverdale, 1910 (postcard)

Riverdale Branch Library was built on property that the City of Toronto conveyed to the Toronto Public Library Board early in 1909. The land had been the garden of the Don Jail's Governor, and a special arrangement was made for jail personnel to grade and maintain the lawns and grounds surrounding the branch. The building's corner design reflected the requirements of the 85- x 84-foot site and the influence of the City Beautiful movement. Chief Librarian George Locke noted in 1910:

It [Riverdale Branch] is advantageously situated on the corner of Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street, a great "transfer corner," and the Library Board has anticipated in practice the theories of the Guild of Civic Art by rounding off the corner, and thus demonstrating concretely the value of the familiar "circus" of modern London.1

The Riverdale Business Men's Association provided benches (since removed) in front the brick-and-stone retaining wall (whose materials matched the libary) at the Broadview-Gerrard corner. George Locke acknowledged the support of both the association and local residents at the library's opening ceremonies on October 19, 1910:

The people of this section of the city have been noted for their local loyalty and civic spirit, and they have fully demonstrated their right to this reputation by the interest they have manifested in this Branch. After being open only two months it stood third in its monthly circulation. The Riverdale Business Men's Association is the social embodiment of the spirit of the east, and to them is due the ease with which the site was obtained and the interest of the people awakened in the value of a Branch Library.2

1Toronto Public Library, Annual Report, 1910, [10]
2Ibid, [10]-11