Saturday, April 27, 2013

823 Ellice Avenue - Former West End Library

DMSMCA Building
Place: Former West End Library
Address: 823 Ellice Avenue (Map)
Opened: September 9, 1966
Architect: John Whitecross
Contractor: Sargent Construction
Cost: $75,000 (est.)

The original 'Bookmobile Number One'
Winnipeg Free Press, October 16, 1953

As the population of the suburbs mushroomed after World War II there was great demand for  new schools, hospitals, recreation facilities and libraries. To address the latter, in 1953 city council approved $12,000 to create the city's first mobile library service called the Bookmobile. It was modeled on the streetcar libraries that hit the streets of Edmonton in 1941 and spread to other Canadian cities soon after.

One of the regular stops of the first Bookmobile was the Orioles Community Club at Burnell Street and St. Matthews Avenue. In the early 1960s the city acquired land near the intersection of Ellice Avenue and Arlington Street. The existing buildings, likely a large rooming house or two, were demolished and the vacant lot became the Bookmobile's new West End stop.

West End Library
West End Library

In December 1965 city council passed a motion "...to cover $75,000 for the construction of a west end branch of the Winnipeg Public Library on Ellice Avenue between Arlington and Burnell Streets", (Winnipeg Free Press, December 22, 1965).

The single-storey, 4,000 square-foot building was designed in-house and constructed in 1965 - 1966 by Sargent Construction. It was built to hold 20,000 books and be the headquarters for the city's growing Bookmobile service, which now numbered three.


The lead architect on the project was John Whitecross with W. A Trimble. The duo combined to design a number of city buildings including Fire Hall Number One on Ellen Street.

West End Library

The facility was "Dedicated to the Education and Enjoyment of the Citizens of Winnipeg" and opened to the public on September 9, 1966. Mayor Stephen Juba led the official opening ceremony on October 14. 


In August 2007 it was announced that the West End Library would relocate to a $1.6 million, 6,000 square-foot facility at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Centre. The new site opened on February 20, 2009 and the old building was put up for sale.


In April 2010 the city approved a $313,000 purchase offer from the Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association. The group converted the space into a community resource centre which opened on June 27, 2012.

Kitchener's trailer-style bookmobile ca. 1958 (source)

As for the Bookmobiles, the West End Library continued to be home to the program until at least the the mid 1980s. At that time the library service looked at replacing its aging fleet of trailers with three new, forty-foot trailers that could hold 3,500 books each and included amenities such as a story reading area, heaters and air conditioning. It also proposed building a new garage adjacent to the St. James library to house them. The plan was eventually rejected due to the cost. 

Bookmobiles disappeared from the streets of Winnipeg in 1992 to save the city $105,000 in operating costs. The library looked at other ways to bring books into the community and today provide a number of mobile library options

Bookmobiles still operate in other parts of Manitoba such as the South Interlake School Division and the Parkland School Division

Related:
More West End Library photos 
Centre aims to unite community Canstar (June 2012)
Hauling food for Hungry Minds Winnipeg Free Press (February 2012)
A history of bookmobiles in Canada University of Guelph
History of bookmobiles in Nova Scotia Blog

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