Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montréal National Historic Site of Canada
Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute
Bibliothèque Atwater du Mechanics' Institute of Montréal
Links and documents
1918/01/01 to 1920/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montreal is located at 1200 Atwater Ave. on the corner of Tupper St. in Westmount. It is a two-storey, brick, Beaux-Arts style building situated on a landscaped lot facing Cabot Square.
Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montreal was designated a national historic site in 2004 because:
- it is home to the first Mechanics' Institute in Canada (established 1828) and the oldest subscription library in Canada;
- it is the last Mechanics' Institute building in Canada serving its original purposes; and
- it embodies the principles and ideals of the Mechanics' Institute movement in its function, layout and decorative programme.
Atwater Library was built by the Mechanics' Institute of Montreal in 1918-1920, almost a century after the organization began. The Mechanics' Institute was an important social, cultural and educational movement devoted to universal education and technical training which, during the 19th century, had many branches in Canada. It has roots in the adult and community education traditions of 18th and 19th-century Great Britain.
Heritage value of the Atwater Library resides in its representation of the role of Mechanics' Institutes in Canada, and particularly in Montréal as illustrated by this building's physical embodiment of the institute's principles and ideals and by its continuing operation as a dual function library and meeting place. Value also resides in the building's Edwardian-Baroque Beaux-Arts design, its composition, site and setting.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 2004.
Features defining the heritage character of this site include:
- its trapezoid footprint and two-storey cubic massing under a flat roof;
- the legibility of Beaux-Arts principles in the classical symmetry and decorative motifs of its exterior façades, with elevated basement, dominant piano nobile or first floor, and a restrained second floor;
- the symmetrical treatment of its north, south and east public façades dominated by large, regularly spaced, arched windows with smaller square windows at basement and upper storey levels;
- the Edwardian Baroque decorative treatment of the elevations with stone stringcourses marking each storey, brickwork laid as channeled masonry at main floor level with brick quoins above, the large arched windows, decorated cornice, and main entry under a broken pediment place within the archway of the central window reveal;
- the formal approach through its central main entrance facing Atwater Street via a wide walkway and granite steps;
- its exterior cladding materials of buff-coloured brick walls with Indiana limestone trim;
- its use of fireproof construction materials, notably concrete blocks clad in stone or brick, concrete floors and roofing materials, steel clad doors;
- its concrete and steel construction technology using concrete walls and an interior framework of steel I-beams supported by steel and concrete piers;
- its symmetrical interior layout following Beaux-Arts principles, with a central double-height atrium, glassed skylight around which on the main level are symmetrically placed book stacks and reading rooms, with meeting rooms off a mezzanine above accessed via symmetrically placed staircases;
- surviving original interior furnishings, fittings and finishes;
- its modest landscaping with mature trees, a lawn and shrubs;
- the continued dual function of the building as library and meeting space.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Learning and the Arts
- Building Social and Community Life
- Education and Social Well-Being
Function - Category and Type
Architect / Designer
Alexander Cowper Hutchison and Alexander Campbell Wood
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection