The building currently occupied by the Midland Public Library was constructed in 1913 as a Federal Government building, serving as a Post Office, Customs Office, and Steamship Inspection Office and Licensing facility. It served these functions until 1967 when it was renovated and opened as a library. The date indicates the building was designed under the direction of David Ewart, Chief Architect for the Department of Public Works during that period. It is in the style popularized by Thomas Fuller, Chief Architect from 1881 to 1897; Romanesque features such as the mansard roof, the high central gable, the rough surfaced stonework and the picturesque corner porch and tower all bespeak Fuller’s influence.
Fuller and his predecessor, Thomas S. Scott, set a pattern in the late 19th century for Post Offices in small communities which is closely followed here. The Post Office was on the ground floor, Customs and Inland Revenue were on the second floor, and there were quarters for the caretaker in the attic. The contract for the construction of the building was let to Mr. E. A. Bleakeney of Gananoque for $47,700.00 and it took 20 months to complete.
Major changes were made in 1967 including strengthening the ground floor with steel beams to raise its live load to 200 p.s.f., suspending acoustic tile ceilings with flush fluorescent light fixtures and upgrading mechanical and electrical systems. The apartment in the attic remained, to be occupied by the librarian’s family. The library opened in its new location in July.
Library service began in Midland in 1880, only two years after the town was incorporated, when a mechanics’ Institute opened in Heacock’s store, which it soon outgrew. It moved further down King St. to a building owned by Mr. Bennett. In 1894 a fire destroyed almost the entire collection. The fire, compounded by funding difficulties plagued the service throughout the rest of the decade, however, it continued with different librarians and different locations until the Carnegie building was opened on Hugel Street in 1915. That building previously operated at The Library Restaurant, although it currently remains vacant.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s additional extensive work was carried out on this building. A new roof, new windows, and a new air conditioning system were installed while complete repointing of the stone work was carried out. The suspended ceilings and fluorescent lights were removed and the building was returned to its earlier look, with high ceilings and lights that were more reflective of its original era. The librarian had to find other accommodation and the attic was converted to administrative functions with offices, a boardroom, staffroom and storage.
Demand for library service grew to the point where the library was one of the most heavily used for its size in the province. New services were added – a reference room was created in the basement and public access computers were provided. Music, video and large print collections were created.
The 21st century brings new challenges to library service and the staff of the Midland Public Library invite you to join them as they continue to build on this strong tradition.