Westmount Public Library

Matthew Farfan
Inside the westmount Public Library. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

larger_img_5238.a.jpgWithout a doubt, one of the jewels of Westmount, and probably of Greater Montreal, is the Westmount Public Library.

Established in 1897 in honour of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, the library, according to its bylaws, was to be "forever free to the use of the inhabitants and ratepayers of the town."

larger_img_5231.a.jpgDesigned by Westmount architect Robert Findlay, and completed in 1898 and 1899, the library occupies a corner of Westmount Park overlooking Sherbrooke Street. The total cost of construction, including the furnishings and about 2,000 books, was just over $16,000. The grand opening of the library took place in June of 1899.

Built of soft-coloured red brick and stone, the library features some remarkable design elements, notably the east (or park) entrance with its stonework arch and high relief sculptures by Montreal artist George Hill, leaded windows (which incorporate the names of writers, poets, philosophers and scientists), a tower, slate roofs and fine interiors, including ornate columns, arches and a coffered ceiling high above the main reading room. The building is stunning both inside and out.

larger_img_5234.a_0.jpgThe library's first librarian was Mary Solace Saxe, who served from about 1900 to 1930. It was under Saxe's tenure that the institution opened its first children's room in 1911, a room that featured a fireplace and tiles depicting scenes from Alice and Wonderland.

Today, the Westmount Public Library is a vibrant cultural institution and a hub of community life in Westmount. The facility welcomes nearly 1,000 visitors every day.