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Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montreal National Historic Site of Canada

1200 Atwater Avenue, Westmount, Quebec, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2005/08/03

Corner view of Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montréal, showing façades facing the roads, 1920.; Mechanics' Institute of Montréal Archives/Archives du Mechanics' Institute of Montréal, 1920.
General view
Panoramic view of the Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montréal, 2003; Agence Parcs Canada/Parks Canada Agency, M. Pelletier, 2003.
Panoramic view
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Other Name(s)

Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montreal National Historic Site of Canada
Atwater Library of the Mechanics' Institute of Montreal
Bibliothèque Atwater du Mechanics' Institute of Montréal

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1918/01/01 to 1920/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/27

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.

Heritage Value

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.

Character-Defining Elements

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.




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)


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



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Conservation and Commemoration Directorate, Documentation Centre, 3rd Floor, Room 366, 30 Victoria St, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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