Calgary’s oldest Library and its surrounding park were granted special status as a national historic site earlier this year.
On Thursday, September 27, Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada will host a plaque unveiling ceremony at Central Memorial Park and Library at 1:00 pm. All are welcome to attend; dress for an outdoor ceremony.
Memorial Park Library is located just south of Calgary’s downtown and opened in 1912. The classically-inspired Library has a grand columned entrance and staircase, rich and ornamental exterior, and elegant interior.
Memorial Park Library was the first public Library in Alberta. Annie Davidson, one of Calgary’s cultural pioneers and visionaries, championed the building alongside the Calgary Women’s Literary Club. Beginning in 1906, the group of civic-minded women advocated for the establishment of a free public Library.
The site of the future Library, now known as Central Memorial Park, was chosen in August 1908 by city plebiscite. Construction began later that year. Funds for construction came from American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who supported 125 libraries across Canada.
Upon opening in 1912, Memorial Park Library quickly proved popular. It became a cultural and educational hub, even housing the city’s first art show in 1912 — an exhibit of 200 European paintings borrowed from local collectors.
"By the end of that first year, 1912, the original collection of 5,280 books had grown to 12,343, and the number of patrons had grown to 8,911. The most popular authors of the day were Alexandre Dumas père, Gilbert Parker, Ralph Connor, Robert Services, and Lucy Maud Montgomery,” writes Brian Brennan in The Calgary Public Library, Inspiring Life Stores Since 1912.
Memorial Park Library continues to be a cultural and educational hub today. It’s now home to the Sun Life Financial Musical Lending Library, the Alexander Calhoun Salon, Wordfest, and much more. Visit this beautiful Library and park — now a National Historic Site — today!