Description of Historic Place
The building at 77 Gore Street East, commonly known as the Perth Library, is situated at the northeast corner of Gore and Basin Streets in downtown Perth. The two-storey Beaux Arts building was constructed in 1906 to the designs of renowned architect Frank Darling, and its brightly coloured brick exterior makes it a prominent feature amongst the stone buildings of Perth's main commercial street.
The exterior of the building is protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the Town of Perth under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 2381) in 1982.
Located at the northwestern corner of the intersection between Gore Street East and Basin Street, the building is situated in the former civic centre of downtown Perth. It is located near Perth Town Hall (1863) and the Crain Building/former post office (1932). Despite its importance as an individual heritage landmark, the building also functions as part of the Gore Street streetscape, which is often regarded as one of the best preserved main streets in Ontario.
The Perth Library is associated with the public library movement in Canada and renowned Canadian architect Frank Darling. Prior to the construction of the building, Perth did not have a public library system and the library services of the town were carried out by the membership-based Mechanics Institute (established in 1844). In 1903, the Perth Scientific and Library Society began work on a grant request that was to be submitted to the American Carnegie Foundation, an organization that was founded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to fund the construction of public library buildings across the English-speaking world. The submission was well received by the Carnegie Foundation and in 1906 the town was provided with $10,660 to construct a library. The Perth Library was one of 111 Carnegie Libraries that were built in Ontario, with the total funding to Ontario communities reaching $1,866,745.
The building is a product of Frank Darling, one of the most distinguished Canadian architects from the late 19th and early 20th Century. Darling designed over 1000 bank buildings during his career, was the first Canadian architect to win the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal (1915), and was the first Honourary President of the Toronto Beaux Arts Club.
The building is constructed in the Beaux Arts style and bears a striking resemblance to the Bank of Montreal building at the corner of Front and Yonge Streets in Toronto, which was designed by Darling two decades earlier. The exterior is composed of contrasting red and yellow brick, and its classical symmetry and detailing include features such as pediments, pilasters, bracketed cornices and a main entrance that is positioned on the building's cut-off corner. One of the most interesting and unique aspects of the building's design is that it was constructed as a corner block. The Carnegie Foundation often dismissed submissions for corner structures due to their unusual proportions and the “wasted space” that tended to characterize their design. Careful consideration of the building's interior layout compensated for its location on a corner, and the Perth Library is one of only six Carnegie libraries in Ontario that enjoys such a setting.
Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Perth Library include its:
- classical symmetry of the Beaux Arts inspired design and its similarity to that of the Bank of Montreal building at Front and Yonge Streets in Toronto
- composition of a mixture of red and yellow brick with a rusticated foundation of rough cut stone
- double three-bay temple fronts displaying ionic pilasters and large pediments with oculi in the tympanums (and the additional bay that terminates the composition on each side)
- broad architrave and bracketed cornice that defines the upper storey of the south and east facades
- pedimented dormers and elaborate parapet of the south and east facades with banisters, plinths, and paired pilasters
- cut-off corner at the southeast of the building that sets the building's symmetry and is characterized by a recessed entranceway, a lunette, and squared brick pillars supporting large stone lintels
- paired flat-headed window openings on the lower level with stone sills and lintels
- window openings on the main level with roman arches, large keystones, and stone sills
- flat-headed window openings of the upper level with projecting wooden pediments
- central location at the corner of Gore and Basin Streets
- situation amongst the other civic buildings of Gore Street
- individual heritage landmark status and component of the celebrated Gore Street streetscape