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Cornish Library

20 West Gate, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1993/01/15

Primary elevation, from the east, of the Cornish Library, Winnipeg, 2006; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, 2006
Primary Elevation
West elevation of the Cornish Library, Winnipeg, 2006; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, 2006
West Elevation
Main entrance of the Cornish Library, Winnipeg, 2006; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, 2006
Main Entrance

Other Name(s)

Bibliothèque publique de Winnipeg, succursale Cornish
Bibliothèque succursale Cornish
Cornish Branch Library
Cornish Library
Cornish Branch, Winnipeg Public Library

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1914/01/01 to 1915/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/03/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Cornish Library, a brick structure built in 1914-15, stands on a lot overlooking the Assiniboine River at an entrance to Armstrong's Point. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint.

Heritage Value

The Cornish Library, designed by S. Frank Peters, is one of three facilities erected in Winnipeg between 1903 and 1915 that recall the role of Andrew Carnegie in the development of free public libraries in the United States and Canada. The American industrialist donated large sums of money to the cause and, as a result, became influential in library design, including ornamentation, window placement, ceiling height and furnishings. The Cornish Library, in keeping with Carnegie's specifications, is based on a simple rectangular plan with classical detailing, generous fenestration and modest yet dignified interior appointments. Its scale and design complement its setting in Armstrong's Point, one of Winnipeg's early affluent neighbourhoods, and still an area filled with substantial, mainly pre-1920 houses on large treed lots. Suffering little change over the years and visible on its riverbank site, the library is an integral physical and functional part of the neighbourhood.

Source: City of Winnipeg Council Meeting Minute, January 15, 1993

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the conspicuous Cornish Library site include:
- the structure's placement on a spacious grassed lot near the intersection of West Gate and Cornish Avenue, with its front facing east and its west elevation facing the Assiniboine River

Key elements that define the library's simple plan and classical style include:
- the one-storey rectangular form, solidly expressed through a raised concrete basement, red brick walls and limestone details
- the strong horizontal lines established by the low-pitched hip roof, the ornamental smooth-cut belt courses that encircle the base and upper level, and the stone sills
- the symmetrical composition of the building's main components and details, including the tall rectangular-shaped windows on all elevations, the centred front portico and the centred rear pavilion with a gable roof
- the classical detailing, including the pedimented double-door main entrance framed by large Tuscan stone columns and an entablature carved with 'PUBLIC LIBRARY', 'CORNISH BRANCH' and 'A.D. 1914.'; an oculus with decorative brick and stone detailing in the pediment atop the rear pavilion; the block modillions in the pediments and under the eaves; etc.
- additional features such as the tall red brick chimneys with stone caps, the rear brick and stone porch with a gable roof, etc.

Key internal elements that define the building's functional layout and fine appointments include:
- the wide front vestibule with stairs to the lower level and to the main-floor landing with its oak and glass interior doors
- the well-lit, open and high-ceilinged main floor with built-in perimeter bookshelves and reading areas efficiently divided off by partial central walls and a screened wall in the southwest corner
- the basement rooms organized around a central hallway, including at each end lecture rooms accessible through oak and glass doors in oak surrounds with large transoms and sidelights
- materials and features such as extensive wood panelling, oak tables, a balustraded platform over the entrance stairs, tiled fireplaces with oak mantels, etc.




Recognition Authority

City of Winnipeg

Recognition Statute

City of Winnipeg Act

Recognition Type

Winnipeg Landmark Heritage Structure

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Sports and Leisure

Function - Category and Type




Architect / Designer

S. Frank Peters



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

15-30 Fort Street Winnipeg MB

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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