UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

The history of Carnegie Centre Carnegie Community Centre (Vancouver, B.C.); Hood, Pat Feb 21, 2018

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. . carneg1e centre Prepared by P:it Hood for C:irnegie Br~ch Libr:iry ., :jj/l·· . -: .. . •: . · • . ;~ • . . ·: .. ... · . ·' ·.·-11.· .... - .. .. ,., •. . . ~ ·':' ~ Scottish-born American steel magnate Ai.).drew Carnegie gave $56,162,622 for construction of 2,509 l ibraries throughout the English-speaking world. Carnegie donated $.,$_0.:,DOO_ for a public library in Vancouver . The 'gu.i.l~g" ·was des igried: ,bY Vancouver architect George G,ant. Tne 5-t:yle ... is Romanesque Renais.:;ance, with a domed Ionic portico ar--id ."French mansard roof. ·"'.·:-,,~' Granite for the foundation ca~e;from Indian Ann. Sa.rnistone for the 10 inch thick .walls came from Gabriela Island. Tne spiral staircase was built by Albion Iron ~forks of Victoria and cost $2,279; 9888 polmcis of iron and steel were used. The rooms were heated by fireplaces. · The walls and _ceilings were panelled in hardwood; the floors · were oak. Tne cornerstone was laid by the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order on ~1arch 29, 1902. Under the cornerstone were placed Masonic documents , a copy of the city's Act of Incorporation, lists of various officials and examples of the postage stamps and coins , then in use. The building opened in 1903, with the City Museum on the third floor, the public library on the first and second floors, and a book bindery in the basement. The library h·as closed for the summer of 1933 due to nepress i on budget cuts. The library's budget for 1935 was only 9¢ more tha..11 1934; the Library Board threatened to sue the City for more ftmds. The Vancouver Public Library moved to its present Central Branch · at Burrard and Robson Street in 1957 . 3 The building's finest architectural feature is its etched and painted stained glass windows. They were designed and crafted by N. T. Lyon of Toronto, who also made the memorial window in St. George ' s Church, Geulph, Ontario. The large windows contain the figures of r-lilton, Shakespeare and Spenser. The B.C. Shield above Shakespeare is heraldically incorrect, as it places the sun above the Union Jack. The College of 1\11115 in London switched these in 1906 before approving the Shield design as B.C. 's crest. Below the poets I feet were 3 smaller windows depicting Scott, Moore and Bums. TI1ese windows i-.·ere removed when the library was converted into the museun building in 1958. The windows were located intact in 1985 ai1d plans are underway to place them back in the building. 4 Sympathetic Vancouverites filled buckets with food to be hauled up by rope to the third floor museum. Di.rring the Depression, forced labour camps for the unemployed were set uo in the Interior. Tne men were paid 20¢ a day to bui ld roads and clear land. In protest against lack of work a."ld camp living conditions , a corps of well-organized workeTs barracaded themselves in the 3rd floor museurn ont1ay 18, 1935. :-:o damage \\·as done to the building . Mayor G.G. McGeer agreed to pay the strikers SlSOO· for food and lodgings. T\..:o weeks late!' , 1800 men left Vancouver by ra il. on the On-To-Ottawa-Trek. Their slogan was "Work and Wages;" The Trek was stooped by the R.C.M.P. with the Regina Riot , on July 1, 1935. · · 1957 Vancouver Public Library moved to its present location at Burrard and ~obson Streets. 1958 - After an eight month closure for conversion, the City Museum took over the whole building in 1958. - The most popular exhibit was the m:..unmified body of, an Egyptian child, which was donated by Dr. George Kidd in 1922. Adults still talk about seeing the lllUl!llII}' when they were children. Tne stuffed bear was also popular. The collection of 500stuffed B.C. birds was the largest of its kind in the world. 196i - The Museum relocated. to Vaii.ier Park in Kitsilano. At that time an auction of items, including a Cninese bamboo temple front, netted the city $2,855.25 1968 - Carnegie was boarded up; the mayor suggested demolishing it. 1972 - It was declared a historic site and could not be demolished without a permit from the Provincial Government. 1973 - City cotmcil voted to ''patc..11 up the building" and use it for the health and social services departments; this idea was later dropped. 1975 - D.E.R.A. (Downtown Eastside Resid:e~ts Association) and other neighbourhood groups wanted the building converted .to a community centre for the areas' citizens. 1975 - The mayor wanted to sell, lease or give away the building. 1976 City cotmcil okayed renovations to the building for community use. 1978 Cotmcil approved ftmding for the restoration of the building. Eventually, $1. 2 million was spent on the renO\'ations, to · bring the building up to seismic standards and add a concrete addition on the adjacent lot 1980 - The building was opened as a corrrntmity centre on January 20, 1980 1981 - The renovations to the building won architects Downs-Archenbault t .he Ah·ard of Honour from the Canada Heritage f-ot.mdation . . 6 The Corrmunity Centre The Centre is owned by the City of Vancouver and funded through its Social Planning Department. The Director is hired by Social Planning to administer staff and budgets. :-Iembership in the Centre is open to all residents of Vancouver. Tne Board of Directors is elected annually from the membership, they organize fundraising and plan programming for the community. A core of about 120 volunteers donate approximately 5,400 hours per month to the Centre, serving coffee, cooking meals and organizing programmes. Tne Centre operates: an art gallery where local artists receive one man shows - a Learning Centre teaching educational upgrading, English-as a second language, basic literacy and university courses a billiards room, gymnasium and weight training room a kitchen serving full-course meals as well as ongoing sandwiches and soup - a theatre used for films, plays, dances, bingo and public meetings - lounge space where cards, chess and conversation occur - programmes at Oppenheimer Park The library is a branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Books are stocked in FJ1.glish, French, Olinese and Japanese. The branch circulates about 11 - 13,000 books per month. Books are also supplied to comnunity groups, te;rrporary shelters in the area, and the Leaming Centre. · The library was awarded the 1986 B.C. Library Association Merit Award for its senrices. 7 8 Our Patrons The l)o\,ntrnvn T:astside is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver, being its original Town site . There are approximately 14,850 pe<J?le in the area. 60% of the population is over 45 years of age. 84% of our patrons are sin~le, divorced or widowed.;89% are male. There are an equal number of Chinese and E.~glish speakin~ people in the area; smaller numhers of japanese, Native Indian and French people use the facilities. Approximately 1500 people use the Centre in a day, making it the busiest Comrrrunity Centre in Vancouver. Al.most all patrons live in hotels or rooming houses. The UBC Library and UBC Learning Exchange would like to thank the following participants for their contributions to digitizing this community-generated document: Wilson Liang; Joseph Sparovec  This community-generated work was digitized and deposited to cIRcle, UBC's open access digital repository, as part of the Digitizing Community Memories project of the Making Research Accessible in the Downtown Eastside initiative (MRAi). In collaboration with the UBC Learning Exchange and UBC Library, the project provided training and support for community members in the Downtown Eastside to digitize and make openly available community-generated materials.  This project aimed to increase access to historic Carnegie Centre publications and preserve these unique materials for years to come.  For more information on this project and the UBC Learning Exchange, please visit learningexchange.ubc.ca  October 27, 2017 


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