Kemptville Carnegie Library


207 Prescott Street

Historical Background

The first library in Kemptville was established in c.1870 under the auspices of the Mechanics Institute. It was housed for a time in the Fraser Block, which was located on the south-east corner of Clothier and Prescott Streets. After a period of time, when it became less vital and was eventually closed, the books were turned over to the Town and were stored at the Town Hall.

In 1895, the Province enacted the Public Libraries Act, which allowed for the establishment of libraries and their Boards. On December 14th 1899, the Town Council of the day passed By-law No 324, “Being a By-law for Establishing of a Public Library with the Assent of the Electors of the Village of Kemptville.” This By- law, based on the petition of “C. F. Ferguson, C. P. Emery and ninety other electors ... praying for the establishment of a Public Library under the PUBLIC LIBRARIES ACT,” set the date for the vote for the assent of the electors on January 10th 1900. The vote was successful and the By-law to establish a Public Library received third reading on February 5th 1900.

On March 6th 1911, a deputation from the Public Library Board attended the Town Council meeting to request that they contact Andrew Carnegie to request a grant for the construction of a new library building. Four years earlier in 1906, Smiths Falls had received a grant and their new facility had been visited by Mr. Carnegie that year. A reply letter from Carnegie was tabled at the Kemptville Council meeting on May 1st 1911, and subsequently, on May 19th, a committee was struck to work with the Library Board to draft a plan for the new building.

At their meeting on November 6th 1911, the Council agreed to purchase a lot on Prescott Street for the new library, from Mrs. Mary Ann Buchanan for the sum of four-hundred and fifty dollars. They also instructed their solicitor to prepare a contract with “the Palmer Lumber Co. for the erection and completion of the proposed Carnegie Library according to plans and specifications furnished by the Architect.

Confirmation of the availability of the grant funds was conveyed to the Town Clerk by a letter from Mr. R. A. Franks, President of the Home Trust Company of Hoboken, New Jersey, dated November 23rd 1911. Mr. Franks advised the Clerk that;

Mr. Carnegie’s grant of $3000 for erection of Library Building at Kemptville is now available and payments on this account will be made in installments of $500 or $1000, upon architect’s certificate, as needed from time to time as work on the building progresses.
Please apply to us by letter for funds on this account, accompanied by architect’s certificate, certifying to the amount due contractors for labor and material supplied on account of the building.

The grant was apparently conditional upon the Council providing a site for the building and passing a by-law to annually provide ten percent of the value of the grant to fund the library. The latter funding arrangement was a standard condition on all of the later Carnegie Library grants and became known as the “Carnegie Formula.”

On December 15th 1911, the Reeve and Clerk were authorized “to execute the contract with the Palmer Lumber Co. and the Dominion Concrete Co. for the erection of the proposed Carnegie Library.” At the same meeting the purchase of the lot for the library from Mrs. Buchanan for five-hundred dollars was also authorized. Completion of construction was scheduled for August 1st 1912, but it appears that the work was delayed. The minutes of the December 19th 1912 Council meeting record as follows;

Moved by Mr. Adams and seconded by Mr. Purcell that the Clerk be instructed to have our solicitor write Mr.Allister the Architect on the Carnegie Library explaining to him his view as to the liability of the Palmer Lumber Co. to put a furnace in the Library, and to state that the building was to be completed 1st August 1912.

The Chairman of the Library Board at the time was Rev. R. J. Dumbrille, who was the father of Dorothy Dumbrille, the well known Canadian author and poet and former resident of Kemptville until 1927. The first meeting of the Board in its new library was held on January 24th 1913. The last payment to the architect, of forty dollars, was approved by Council on February 3rd 1913. Three months later, Rev. Dumbrille approached the Council to have the Public Library grounds levelled and seeded, and a committee was subsequently established to look after the matter “in keeping with the suggestions of the Library Board.”

Architectural Significance

The building is a one-storey institutional structure designed by A. Stuart Allister in 1911. It is constructed of even-coursed rock-faced concrete block. The construction material may be “Boyd Block” which was produced locally at Osgoode, Ontario. The building is rectangular in plan with a hip roof. It is built in a vernacular classic style, incorporating a temple-front portico, symmetrically placed in the centre of front facade.

The building is raised on a plinth foundation, which is delineated by a belt-course consisting of plain concrete block bevelled at the top. An engaged chimney, which extends through the eave and terminates at a flat cap-stone, is located in the centre of the north facade. The open style front porch has a straight run of stairs leading to the ground floor, with a Greek-classical style open guard-rail along both sides of the landing. The protruding front-porch gable is supported by two stylized (Roman) Doric columns. Similar style engaged pilasters are located at the junction of the porch roof with the front wall. The columns and engaged pilasters are flat with no fluting. The original eave and cornice details are concealed under modern aluminium fascia and soffit. The existing pressed metal roof appears to be original. All of the distinctive style windows appear to be original. The front entrance door and transom are modern replacements.

Visitor Information

  • 613-258-9569 ext. 162

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    Municipality of North Grenville

    285 County Road #44, PO Box 130
    Kemptville, ON
    K0G 1J0


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