Historical Plaque Properties

 

Stratford Library
19 St. Andrew Street
1903

 

Unlike most Carnegie Libraries, the Stratford Public Library does not have the name “Carnegie” above the doors. When the wealthy American industrialist and steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, made a $15,000 donation to build Stratford’s public library, citizens were divided as to whether the City should accept the money.

Some argued that Carnegie had made his fortune by underpaying his employees and others even referred to his donations as “blood money, accumulated at the sacrifice of the working man,”  referring to the labourers who were shot and killed during the 1892 strike against Carnegie’s steel works in Pennsylvania. However, after much public debate, the donation was accepted and the library was built, quietly opening its doors on September 19, 1903, without mention in the local newspapers. The official grand opening was held one hundred years later during the library’s Centennial Celebrations in 2003.


The lower floor of the library was used as living quarters for the building’s custodian until 1975 when it was converted to the children’s section and other uses. The original main floor featured a large reading room with fireplace, a “stack room” and a “delivery room”. These rooms were necessary, at the time, because patrons were not allowed to browse the shelves. Instead, patrons had to request a particular book from the librarian who would retrieve it from the stacks.

In 1903, the main entrance was located in the centre of the north side of the building, facing St. Andrew Street. A double set of stairs led to the main door. When the library was expanded in 1925-26, the entrance was moved to the current east-facing location.  The ACO Historical Plaque has been placed over the original 1903 entrance location.

(Excerpted from the online history of the Stratford Public Library)