Carnegie Library - Yorkville

Address: 22 Yorkville Avenue
Architect: Robert McCallum, City Architect
Opened: 1907, June 13

Yorkville Branch Library opened on June 13, 1907, in what was then the city's north end. It was the first of four libraries constructed with a $350,000 grant made by Andrew Carnegie to the Toronto Public Library in 1903. Designed by Robert McCallum, City Architect, Yorkville's classical, Beaux Arts style is similar to libraries in many smaller Ontario communities. It features two pairs of columns, a projected portico, Doric capitals, a bracketed cornice, and stone quoins, band courses and keystones. Yorkville is now the Toronto Public Library's oldest library.

Major Alterations

1978 Renovation and addition by Barton Myers Associates.

Heritage Status

1973 Listed on Inventory of Heritage Properties, adopted by Toronto City Council, June 20.

Carnegie Library - Yorkville, 1906

Yorkville Library replaced an earlier branch, Northern, which had opened as Toronto Public Library's first library in February 1884, the first year of free public library service in the city. Northern Branch was housed in rented rooms at St. Paul's Hall (the old Yorkville Town Hall) on the west side of Yonge Street opposite Collier Street.

In December 1905, the Toronto Public Library Board received permission "to proceed with the erection of a Branch Library on the lot east of the Fire Hall, Yorkville Avenue, to take the place of that which has been so unfortunately situated in St. Paul's Hall."1 Plans for the new library, approved by the Library Board on April 17, 1906, were accepted on June 15, 1906. The Yorkville Branch was officially opened, on June 13, 1907, "in the presence of a body of distinguished gentleman, literary, legal and medical."2 The building cost $27,328.65.

1Toronto Public Library, Annual Report, 1905, 4.
2"Northern Library building," Mail & Empire, June 14, 1907.

Carnegie Library - Yorkville, 1911

This picture was probably taken before 1909, when the Toronto Public Library Board had adopted the "open shelf" storage system, which allowed readers to browse the books and not have to request them from staff. The area to the right of the main entrance was set aside as the "Teachers and Children's Room." The branch was finished throughout with massive quarter-cut oak. Note the light sconces on the upper right: two of these were uncovered in May 2003 during a retrofit at the library.

Carnegie Library - Yorkville, Northern Branch

In 1883, Toronto Public Library Board’s first year of operation, it decided to establish its first branch in St. Paul’s Hall. After a site inspection, the Board resolved on 6 July 1883, "it was desirable for the success of the Library and Reading room that they should be located on the first floor, in the front room now occupied by the police and in the two rooms in the rear of the same."