Edmonton Public Library

This Classical Revival building featured prominently in the downtown skyline until its demolition in 1968.

The Edmonton Public Library Board was created in 1909 with a mandate to purchase land and build a library on the site. Although the site on MacDonald Drive (formerly College Avenue) was purchased in 1910, the library's collection was housed in several different shared spaces over its first 14 years, as the Board and its first librarian, E.L. Hill, struggled to find adequate funding to build a dedicated public library building on their site. The early locations included the second story of the Chisholm Block (Jasper Avenue and 104 Street), where the library was located over a liquor store and a butcher shop; the Roberts Block (102 Street and 102 Avenue); and the Civic Block (99 Street and 102 Avenue). Finally, after the American philanthropic society the Carnegie Corporation agreed to supply a grant of $112,500 towards the cost of construction, Edmonton's first downtown public library opened on August 30, 1923.

The library was designed by Edmonton Architects H.A. Magoon and G.H. MacDonald and built by Poole Construction. It was designed to be largely fireproof, with the basement and ground floors constructed of reinforced concrete and the main (upper) floor of fireproof structural steel. The exterior featured cream-coloured brick and Bedford stone, with a red tile roof and copper gutters, decking, flashing, and skylights. The main entrance was flanked by four Doric columns made of Bedford stone. Carved in stone above the entrance were the words "FREE TO ALL".

Although the ground floor housed the children's collection and a lecture room, most of that floor and the entire basement were used as staff workrooms or storage and thus were not open to the public. The main public area was the upper storey, a large, open space with natural lighting supplied from large windows around its perimeter and a skylight measuring 65 feet by 25 feet carried on a peristyle of Ionic columns. Interior staricases were made from terrazzo and marble, and the main floor finishings, includng the loans desk, were made of oak. Offices, a board room, and staff facilities were located in the south-east corner of the main floor. A small mezzanine floor overlooking the main floor housed the Assistant Librarian's office, allowing easy supervision of the entire floor.

By 1962, the library's collection and staff were rapidly outgrowing the building, so an addition was built on the front of the existing structure to house an expanded children's library. The new  modern addition was designed by the city's architect. Although it was described at the time of opening as "one of the most attractive in Canada" by Morton Coburn, director of libraries, a March 25, 1966 article in The Edmonton Journal stated "...outside, [the building] has been marred by the addition of a children's department of modern design in stark contrast to the original."

After the larger Centennial Library (now the Stanley A. Milner Library) opened in 1967, the original building and site were sold to Alberta Government Telephones, who demolished the building in 1968 to make room for the AGT Tower (now the Telus building).




Designation Status




Year Built


Architectural Styles

Classical Revival

Character Defining Elements

Arched Windows , Brick structure , Carving , Columns , Hipped roof , Pilaster , Rectangular footprint , Skylight , Stone structure , Two storeys


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