Wychwood Branch Turns 100!

April 14, 2016 | Barbara Myrvold

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Wychwood branch-architectural drawing from 1915 annual report
Architectural plan for Wychwood Branch Library, Eden Smith & Sons Architects, 1915

Wychwood Branch officially opened 100 years ago on Saturday, April 15, 1916. The branch was the prototype of three identical libraries that Toronto Public Library built in 1915-16 with a $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The other two branches, High Park and Beaches, opened later in 1916, and centennial celebrations for all of the “triplets” will take place this October. 

Festivities for the opening of Wychwood Branch extended over a few weeks in spring 1916, and they must have provided a welcome diversion from the Great War. Chief Librarian George H. Locke and his wife, Grace Moore, received more than 150 library staff and their friends on Tuesday March 28 at the new Bathurst Street branch (at the northeast corner of Melgund Road, south of St. Clair). Locke started the party with a ceremonial lighting of fires in the huge hearths in the adult and children’s reading rooms. As the evening progressed there was dancing to an orchestra, refreshments and the presentation of a large basket of roses to the popular and charismatic Locke whose 46th birthday was the following day.

Children have been an important part of the service at Wychwood Branch since the beginning. The children’s room was opened on the Thursday and Friday afternoons immediately before the official opening. “Throngs of kiddies flocked … to the beautiful Elizabethan building up Wychwood way,” the Globe reported, “till benches all were occupied, and the weeniest boys and girls sat on the floor about the great fireplace and listened wide-eyed while Miss [Lillian H.] Smith, Miss Jackson and Miss Endicott told them tales of the Good People of Beowulf, of Arthur and His Table Round and the noble men and women … [of] the romantic days of Early Canada.” The tradition is being continued with a “Happy 100th Birthday Wychwood Library Storytime” at the branch on Friday morning, April 15, 10:30 -11:00 am.

A large number of neighbourhood residents attended the formal opening ceremonies on Saturday evening, April 15, 1916. They heard speeches by local politicians, community leaders and library officials, and had an opportunity to view the new library, which Locke proclaimed was “a decided revolt in style from the traditional library architecture."

In recognition of Wychwood’s centennial, several new pages have been created for the Library’s website, Toronto’s Carnegie Libraries, and two dozen images from the our collections have been added to the Digital Archive.

Stay tuned for more centennial activities this October.