Shared History

The Woodstock Public Library is one of 111 Carnegie libraries in Ontario – all built with grants by the Carnegie Foundation. Carnegie libraries are often recognizable from their shared simple plans and neoclassical features – a conservative style that references back to Greek and Roman architecture and which was a common choice for many public and institutional buildings in North America at that time. While many of the original Carnegie libraries have been re-purposed, Woodstock Public Library continues its original use – albeit with added programs that further strengthen its role as a community space.

A Unique Touch

Behind the Carnegie libraries’ uniform look were strict design criteria for architectural language and layout. However, many of these criteria were not introduced until 1907 when grant applications required plan and elevations drawings. Woodstock Public Library received its grant in 1905, and therefore includes embellishments that would later be prohibited – including an elaborate Greek-inspired portico and interior rotunda.

Expanding for the Future

While Woodstock Public Library is first and foremost a library, the building has been expanded throughout its history in order to better accommodate new programs and uses to better serve the changing needs of its community. Most recently, it went through a significant addition and renovation in 1995 led by architect Phillip Carter – an architect well known for his numerous libraries across On-tario. The addition is sympathetic to the original architectural language of the library, using traditional elements such as a gabled roof and punched windows to harmonize with the existing.

This post forms part of our World Architecture Day Queen’s Park Picks 2017 series in which we asked Ontario’s Members of Provincial Parliament to nominate a prominent building, past or present, in their riding for a chance to learn more about it. Check out the rest of the series to learn more about Ontario’s great architecture.


// Beckman, Margaret, Stephen Langmead, and John B. Black. 1984. The best gift: a record of the Car-negie libraries in Ontario. Toronto: Dundurn Press.
// Carnegie Libraries, Ontario Association of Architect’s BLOAAG, January 11, 2016

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