Built in 1922 Glencoe’s former public library building was one of the last two libraries built in Ontario from the Andrew Carnegie Library Foundation. The formal opening took place on February 1, 1923 and the public library remained a prominent element of Main Street Glencoe until the library moved to its current location on McKellar Street in 1993. The building is also the former home of the Glencoe & District Historical Society.
Before Public Libraries: The Mechanics’ Institute:
Mechanics’ Institutes were originally educational establishments formed to provide adult education to working men, particularly in technical subjects. Institutes were established as ‘libraries’ for the working class. In the 1800’s the formation of these institutes became very popular throughout Europe and North America. Today thousands of these Institutes still exist, often associated with libraries, universities, community halls, or recreational facilities.
In November 1881 the establishment of a Mechanics’ Institute in Glencoe was proposed by the Reeve Isaac Rathburn in a public meeting. This led to the formation of the Institute. Later in 1888 a meeting was called to reorganize the Institute under the call of Isaac Rathburn. At this time the Institute had 110 members: additions were made to the library of books, and a reading room was established in the Howard Block. Mr. Rathburn’s efforts are recognized as significant to the Institutes’ formation and revival.
In Glencoe the Mechanics’ Institute was the forerunner of what later became the Glencoe Public Library.
Carnegie Public Libraries:
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American philanthropist who believed in providing access to knowledge and education. He formed the Andrew Carnegie Library Foundation which offered a library to any town in the world that would provide the land and maintain the building. $60 million dollars built 2,811 libraries around the world.
Glencoe’s Twin: Norwood Public Library. The same plans were used for this library and Glencoe’s original library. It is a split level building too, although its front door opens at street level. Built in 1922-1923, with money also donated by Andrew Carnegie, it officially opened February 1924 and still operates as a library today.
Glencoe Public Library
125 Carnegie libraries were built in Canada. Glencoe’s library was built in 1922 and opened in 1923 at a cost of $5,000. This was among the last built in Ontario, its twin of similar design opened in Norwood the following year.
The Public Library underwent periodic upkeep, but generally remained very much the way it was when originally built. In 1969 the building underwent some renovations and updates including new carpeting. The basement remained unheated and leaky.
In 1978 the recently formed Glencoe & District Historical Society were graciously provided a resource room in the basement of the library. This was used for storage of historical documents and as a general meeting place.
The Carnegie building on Main Street is owned by the Municipality, and is currently vacant.
In 1982 the Glencoe & District Historical Society began a fund raising drive for a $44,000 renovation project. Funding came from Wintario, Neighbourhood Improvement, Glencoe & District Historical Society, and the Village of Glencoe. The upgrades included new windows, insulation, basement floor, washrooms, furnace, air conditioning, lighting, and carpeting. A childrens area was created in one of the basement rooms, and a resource room for the Glencoe & District Historical society in the other. The total costs for the project was $38,000. On July 14, 1983 the library had its official opening following the extensive renovations.
Glencoe’s Land Registry Office* was closed in 1991, and in 1993 the renovated building became the new home for the Glencoe Public Library on the corner of McKellar and Victoria Street.
In 2018, on land that was donated, a new library opened up on 123 McKellar St. The Glencoe & District Historical Society then moved into the site of the former library.
* The West Middlesex registry building was erected in 1871. After 120 years the office was integrated into the London Land Registry Office and the building was closed.
1) Transcript & Free Press, Jan 11 1923, Jan 25 1923, Feb 8 1923, Mar 9 1939.
2) Transcript & Free Press, Nov 28 1981, Dec 24 1981, Feb 4, 1982, Mar 18, 1982, Dec 22 1993.
3) Glencoe & District Historical Society archives and resources.
4) Members of the community contacted by phone and in person.