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Central Memorial Library and Park National Historic Site of Canada

1221 2nd Street Southwest, Calgary, Alberta, T2R, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2017/07/20

Exterior façade of the library; Parks Canada | Parcs Canada
Exterior of the library
Aerial view of the park; Parks Canada | Parcs Canada
View of the park
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Other Name(s)

Central Memorial Library and Park National Historic Site of Canada
Central Memorial Library and Park
Bibliothèque et le parc Central Memorial

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1908/01/01 to 1912/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2022/09/21

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Central Memorial Library and Park National Historic Site of Canada is located on 1.93 hectares in Central Memorial Park in downtown Calgary. The Library is a large and imposing two and one-half storey yellow sandstone building. Like many Carnegie libraries, its design is classically-inspired with its grand columned entrance, and rich and ornamental exterior elements. The park surrounding the library is a formally designed landscape which includes a strictly symmetrical layout with elaborately designed beds, paths, lawns, specimen planting, two decorative water fountains and numerous monuments and memorials. Official recognition refers to the municipal lot in Calgary’s Beltline district.

Heritage Value

The Central Memorial Library and Park was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2018. It is recognized because:

- opened in 1912, this classically-inspired building with its massive portico comprised of Ionic columns supporting a skillfully carved pediment and the grand staircase leading up to it, is one of the largest and most imposing of the 125 Carnegie libraries built across Canada;
- conceived of as a unit, the library and its surrounding rehabilitated park have comprised a social, cultural, educational and memorial centre for Calgarians.
- they illustrate the confidence and optimism of the young city of Calgary.

Central Memorial Library and Park reflect official efforts to create an attractive and cultured new city in the west. Designed as a unit during Calgary’s first major economic and population boom at the turn of the 20th century, the library was the project of a group of civic-minded, local women led by Annie Davidson, recognized now as one of the city’s cultural pioneers. This group had advocated for the establishment of a free public library in Calgary for years, arguing that it would help turn the booming western town into a mature city. The library was funded in partnership with American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. A great believer in the importance of free public libraries to communities, in the late 19th and early 20th century Carnegie donated over $56 million to help build libraries worldwide. Upon opening, it quickly proved popular with Calgarians from all walks of life. As the headquarters for educational associations and various clubs, it became a cultural and educational hub, even housing the city’s first art show.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2015.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- the Central Memorial Library and Park site that encompasses an entire city block in Calgary’s Betline district;
- the library location at the east end of the park;
- the symmetrical arrangement of walkways, lawns and bedding plants of the park;
- the ornate landscaping;
- the formally designed raised beddings with brilliantly colored plantings;
- the use of Russian poplar trees along the edges of the park, spruce trees around the library building and shrubberies throughout the park;
- the orientation and location of statuary and memorial elements on the park's: 1914 equestrian statue The Horseman of the Plains; the First World War Memorial; the Cenotaph and accompanying benches; the Federal Geodetic Survey marker; the water fountain commemorating the 50th Battalion; the R.B. Bennett memorial; the Eternal flame memorial; the Royal Canadian Legion Commemorative Medallion; the Second World War memorial, Burma Star; the memorial to the Australian and New Zealand armed forces; the wrought iron lampposts and bollards throughout the park; the flagpole located near the cenotaph.
- the Paskapoo sandstone walls backed with brick;
- the projecting front entryway with two smooth columns with volutes supporting a pediment;
- the tympanum bearing the words ‘’ Calgary Public Library’’;
- the stone stairs leading to the front entrance;
- the copper roof with finials;
- the cornices with shell motifs over the front and side windows;
- the curved facade with evenly spaced bands of windows on rear of the building;
- the balconets on the first floor and the latticing one the second-storey windows;
- the rusticated masonry on the foundation;
- the library’s axially-planned interior and basic layout;
- the original interior public spaces, including the main floor reading room;
- the plaster walls and ceilings with classically-inspired decorative mouldings and ionic columns;
- the terrazzo floors with mosaic trim in the main reading room and circulation area;
- the marble staircases to the second floor.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1928/01/01 to 1928/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts
Building Social and Community Life
Community Organizations
Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being

Function - Category and Type




Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Québec J8X 0B3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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