Speaking of Fireplaces.... It's Cold Outside
Toronto Public Library (TPL) has historically valued the fireplace in its architecture. According to Barbara Myrvold, Local History Services Specialist, Lillian H. Smith (TPL's early female pioneer of children's services and reading in the 1910s-1940s period) herself consciously chose fireplaces when planning children's rooms and services.
Smith valued the cosy aspect of the fireplace in children's departments and libraries in settlement houses (intended to bring library services to poorer inner city areas and new immigrants) and for years, a fire would be lit for the children's story hour. I wonder if any (older?) readers of this blog post remember storytime with a fire at a TPL branch?
Lillian H. Smith believed that the role of the children's librarian was to deliver "the right book, to the right child, at the right time."
The fireplace also plays a large role in many early designs especially Carnegie buildings and the three iconic branches spearheaded by Chief Librarian George H. Locke that are celebrating 100 years in 2016: Beaches, High Park and Wychwood.
The main floor adult reading area great hall design of the Beaches, Wychwood and High Park featured large fireplaces as a focal point (as seen above at High Park). The separate children's area, in the lower level, had large windows, a cosy feel and also working fireplaces (see the Wychwood photos below).
But the fireplace is not only a historical remnant within Toronto Public Library. Several branches still have working fireplaces of various kinds including Bloor/Gladstone, Dufferin/St Clair, Brentwood, Mount Dennis, Highland Creek, Oakwood Village and Taylor Memorial. Several other branches such as Riverdale, Beaches, Wychwood, Runnymede and High Park have fireplaces but they are no longer used.
Above is Brentwood Branch in Toronto's west end which was recently renovated.
Below is Bloor/Gladstone, one of Toronto oldest branches (although not a Carnegie building), which was also recently renovated and had this sleek update to its fireplace. Note the two angel cherub heads flanking the fireplace. The original setting can be seen in the 1913 photo in black and white of the children's department of Bloor/Gladstone. If you're interested in the branch and neighbourhood you can access Bloor-Dufferin in Pictures as a pdf from our website or visit the Bloor/Gladstone Pinterest board.
So, on a cold winter day this is my homage to the fireplace.
You can always check Youtube as well.
My father (God rest his soul) was a shepherd and woodcutter in the old country. He once looked at a piece of wood in my fireplace and told me that it's pear, new growth from the top of the tree and wouldn't burn too long or too hot! One reason I feel emotionally attached to gathering wood for home is the connection it gives me to him.