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Wychwood Library (1916)

09 Aug 2017
 
Image Credit: Adrian Gamble
Architectural Credit: Eden Smith & Sons
 
In this post of our summer blOAAg series “Shaping Ontario at 150: The built and unbuilt”, we take a look at the Wychwood Branch Library in mid-town Toronto.

Location: Toronto
Architect:
Eden Smith & Sons
Date of Completion:
1916
Contributor
: Adrian Gamble 

At the edge of Toronto’s historic Wychwood Park, sits what by most accounts appears to be a modest, early twentieth century brick building. Not much larger than the typical older home in the exclusive midtown neighbourhood, the Wychwood Branch of the Toronto Public Library is in fact a structure of unexpected historical significance. 

Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble


Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble

The roots of the Wychwood Branch date back to 1883, its first iteration located within the former Bracondale Post Office. By 1898, the rapidly expanding collection had moved to the newly created Bracondale Public Library which occupied a vacant portion of a tannery on nearby Christie St. Between 1898 and 1915, the early years of the library were unusually eventful, including a fire in 1904, a temporary relocation to Wychwood Public School in 1905, amalgamation into the Toronto Public Library in 1909, and the assignment of its current name in 1912. By 1915, however, the Wychwood Branch had already outgrown its present location and was in need of a new, permanent home.  

Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble


Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble

One of three identical libraries, the Wychwood Branch has siblings located in High Park and The Beaches. Built in 1916, the Wychwood Library, along with its counterparts, was funded by a generous $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation, while the building contract was awarded to Eden Smith, one of Toronto’s premiere Arts and Crafts architects. Featuring a broad assortment of Arts and Crafts touches, the red brick exterior features a great deal of stone and masonry detailing, the generous banks of recessed, leaded glass casement windows evoking the English Cottage style for which Smith was best known. Complete with false buttresses and stood upon a sturdy stone foundation, the fanciful detail work serves the structure well, the library’s Collegiate Gothic flair hinting at the vast wealth of knowledge held behind its walls. 

Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble


Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble

Eden Smith designed the new libraries to be progressive, egalitarian, and inviting, featuring a forward-thinking "open-shelf" system, children’s reading rooms, and airy, welcoming interiors. The lofty, exposed timber ceiling, ample natural light thanks to the inclusion of numerous windows, simple stone fireplaces, and oak bookshelves, combine to make the space feel like home – the perfect place to curl up by the fire with a good book. 

Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble


Photo Credit: Adrian Gamble

A century after its completion, the Wychwood Library continues to be an important community hub within the bustling Bathurst & St. Clair neighbourhood, the crop of new condo towers soaring overhead serving as a constant reminder of just how dramatically the area has changed over the last hundred years. Concurrently, from an architectural standpoint, the Wychwood Library remains as one of the single most visible, public contributions to the city made by Eden Smith, the majority of commissions produced by Toronto’s most ardent supporter of the Canadian Arts and Crafts Movement, completed as private residences, built comparatively out of sight within the wealthy enclaves of nearby Wychwood Park and Forest Hill, along with many others as found throughout Rosedale, High Park, and the Annex.

This post is forms part of our blOAAg summer series “Shaping Ontario at 150: The built and unbuilt exploring architecture intrinsically tied to the community it is or was situated in. Check out the other posts in our series for more great buildings across the province!

 
 
 

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October 29, 2017 23:52 by Anonymous


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