Remember This?… The Sault’s first Carnegie library burns with the fire station.

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In 1901, when the small 2-room library housed in Town Hall outgrew the Sault’s growing population,  Russell Halton, a local architect, contacted Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was a known benefactor of libraries in Canada and the U.S. On December 14th of that same year the city received a grant for $10,000 to build a public library on city property.

In 1903 the library moved into the building financed by the grant on Queen Street just east of East Street . In addition to the library, the building complex housed the post office and a public hall in the same wing as the library as well as the Town Hall and Fire Hall in adjoining wings.

Just 4 years after the construction of the new library it was destroyed by fire. On March 6th of 1907 the fire alarm sounded at about 8:50p.m. when a fire was noticed in the ceiling of the library near the back of the building. The cause of the fire was thought to be faulty wiring. The fire was so extensive that even the fire brigade from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan crossed the river to help fight it.

Although the building and contents were insured, they were only insured for a mere $4,500 given the proximity of the fire hall, as explained by C.J. Pim, Town Clerk. Andrew Carnegie was approached a second time for funding. He reluctantly granted an additional $5,500 to rebuild the library, but not without first advising the local council that they had been “penny wise and pound foolish.” The new library building was completed for the second time in 1909 by architects Demar & Murdoch. That building was eventually demolished in 1960 when the new library was built where it stands today, on East Street just south of Bay Street.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think it is always great to read these types articles and to think back to what was the foundation of the community of today. Lets think about this, Libraries (Mechanics Institute) were the primary source of information in those days (no internet), and Carnegie perpetuated learning and donated a lot of money to these projects. This was the precursor of the current Public Library system. Many town councils would have used these buildings as a meeting places. There were also many fire brigades who also benefited by using these buildings to store their fire apparatus.

  2. Information like this is available at our museum in the archive section. This is not from memory but from documented articles including photos and personal accounts.

  3. I kinda doubt there are too many that would remember the fire as they would have to be almost 110 years old at present with a very good memory!

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