Celebrating the Beaches Branch: December 13: Snapshots in History

December 14, 2016 | John P.

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Excerpt from Toronto Public Library Annual Report 1916

 Excerpt from Toronto Public Library Board Annual Report, 1916

On December 13 and beyond, please take a moment to remember the opening of the original and permanent Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library on December 13, 1916. The Toronto Daily Star reported in its “suburban news” section on December 14, 1916 that “(t)he opening of the Beaches branch of the Public Library took place in the auditorium of the building in Kew Gardens. There was a large attendance, the main room…being well filled…” Then-Chief Librarian George H. Locke spoke of how the architecture of the Beaches, High Park and Wychwood Branches (which all opened in 1916) was based on the grammar schools that existed in England during the times of William Shakespeare. All three branches were built with a $50,000 grant from the (Andrew) Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Prior to this permanent location, Toronto Public Library had opened a temporary storefront library at the northeast corner of Hambly Avenue and Queen Street East on February 23, 1914. Initially, some local residents as well as the City of Toronto’s Parks Committee were opposed to having a building on parks property. However, then-Mayor Tommy Church was in a position to lay the cornerstone of the Beaches Branch on October 29, 1915. Eden Smith & Sons was the architectural firm hired for the project.

Beaches Branch was listed on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1979. In 1980, Stinson Montgomery Sisam Architects directed the renovation and expansion of the branch with its re-opening on September 26, 1980. The 1980 addition to the building was demolished in 2004 in conjunction with the renovation and expansion of the Beaches Branch by Phillip H. Carter and Kingsland + Architects Inc. The branch closed on April 17, 2004, and re-opened on January 20, 2005 with an official re-opening two days later on January 22, 2005. Recent visitors to the Beaches Branch have noticed the one tonne cast bronze owl statue named “Wordsworth”, designed by architect Phillip H. Carter and artisan Ludzer Vandermolen, that was installed near the entrance on July 7, 2005. Heritage Toronto installed a plaque outside of the building in 2006.

You can read a brief 19-page history of the building of Beaches Branch during the 1910-1916 time period written by library service specialist, Barbara Myrvold by clicking here.


Toronto Public Library; Beaches Branch, Queen St. E., s. side, w. of Lee Ave pictures-r-5429

Toronto Public Library; Beaches Branch, Queen St. E., s. side, w. of Lee Ave., 1916 (Photographer: Unknown).

Click here (or on the following image) to view a PDF (portable document format) version of the slide show that was constantly playing during the Beaches Branch Open House on October 22, 2016.

Library service at the Beach 1908-2016


When one visits the branch, please stop by the front desk and view the following collage: Beaches Branch History: Prepared by Toronto Public Library staff for the 2016 Centennial. Produced by Preservation and Digitization Services, Toronto Public Library, 2016.