1221 2 Street Southwest, Calgary

Memorial Park Library

Literary enthusiast Annie Davidson and founding members of the Calgary Women’s Literary Club called for
the creation of a public library for Calgary in the early part of the 20th century. Calgary was booming and
the population was expected to reach 100,000. The library site—owned by the city since 1889—was chosen
by plebiscite on August 12, 1908. Construction was completed in 1911, and the Central Park Library, as
it was first called, officially opened on January 2, 1912. It was Alberta’s first public library.
It was also the first library structure in the province financed by wealthy American steel industrialist and
philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. During a 33 year period Carnegie financed 2,811 libraries world-wide.
During the first three months, five thousand Calgarians (the city’s population was 40,000) became library
Constructed with yellow Paskapoo sandstone quarried at Calgary’s Oliver Quarry, with a copper roof,
douglas fir floors, and mahogany and birch trim. The architectural style is Classical with strong influence
of Beaux-Arts tradition. Original interior details included: marble staircases leading to the second floor;
two main floor fireplaces trimmed with mahogany; a walk-in vault and newspaper room in the basement.
On the main floor, a reading room, children’s room, reference room, stacks and cataloguing room. The
second floor featured a lecture hall with stage, technical reading room and women’s reading room.
Central Park Library became the cultural centre of the city, hosting educational and arts groups; Calgary
Women’s Literary Club, Historical Society of Calgary, Calgary Natural History Society and Calgary Arts
Association. Calgary College—a first attempt at establishing a University of Calgary— found a home here
from 1911-1915.
The building acted as Calgary’s main library until 1963 when the W.R.Castell Library opened on Macleod
Trail. The province declared it a Provincial History Resource in 1976.
In 1977, the library underwent a $1.1 million rehabilitation project. It re-opened October 16, 1977 as
Memorial Park Branch Library. The second floor was rented to the newly formed Muttart Art Gallery (now
the Art Gallery of Calgary).
The Calgary Public Library, which now has 18 locations across the city, celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary
in 2012.
Alexander Calhoun & Staff 1912 Alexander Calhoun
& staff at circulation desk. CPL Digital Library,

From Cornerstones, Calgary Herald. August 3, 1997, and Then & Now, Calgary Herald. June 4, 2002