Saturday, April 27, 2013

823 Ellice Avenue - Former West End Library / DMSMCA

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

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. A second bookmobile was added in 1957 and a third in 1965.

One of the regular stops of the first Bookmobile was the Orioles Community Club at Burnell Street and St. Matthews Avenue to serve the rapidly expanding West End community. 

In the early 1960s, the city acquired land near the intersection of Ellice Avenue and Arlington Street. The existing buildings, likely a pair of large rooming houses, were demolished and the vacant lot became the Bookmobile's new West End stop.

In December 1965, Winnipeg's city council passed a motion " 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 city designed the building in-house. The lead architect was John Whitecross with W. A. Trimble. The duo paired up on the design of a number of city buildings, including 1965's Fire Hall Number One on Ellen Street.

Whitecross was better known in the city as a target shooter, representing the province at the national level and Canada and numerous international events.

West End Library
West End Library

The single-storey design has a main floor of 3,657 square feet meant to hold 20,000 books. A partial basement of 1,788 square feet is connected to the main floor by a dumb-waiter and served as the depot for the city's three bookmobile trailers.

The facade is notable for is horizontal and vertical exposed steel beams and the
wall of windows that fronted what was the public reading room area.

Tenders closed for the building on November 26, 1965. Sargent Construction of Notre Dame Avenue were the general contractors.

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 library 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 on the building from the Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association, a not-for-profit Neighbourhood Development Corporation funded by the Neighbourhoods Alive! program of the provincial government.

The building was converted into a community resource centre which opened on June 27, 2012.

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

As for the Bookmobiles, in the mid-1980s the city looked at replacing its aging fleet of trailers with three 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

My Flickr album of 823 Ellice Avenue 
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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