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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chapleau Public Library celebrates 35 years in civic centre after several location moves throughout its history since 1887

N. Ont library rep, Renee Cecile, Lt Gov McGibbon, husband 

When Pauline McGibbon, then the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, visited Chapleau to officially open the Chapleau Civic Centre, 35 years ago on June 28, 1978, she was impressed with the library included in the building.
"One can judge the stature of a town or village by the extent of its library," the lieutenant-governor said in her remarks as she toured the library accompanied by Mrs. Renee Cecile, chair of the library board; Estelle Morin, the librarian, and board members. 

It was also a special occasion for Mrs. Cecile who was presented an achievement scroll by George L. Evans, a board member and deputy reeve of Chapleau in 1978. In 2012, the library was named the George L. Evans Library in his honour.

The scroll to Mrs. Cecile said it was in recognition of her "untiring devotion" to library service in Chapleau. She had served as a board member since it was established in the late 1950s. Her granddaughter Lisa also presented her with a bouquet of red roses.

A library was on the minds of Chapleau's early citizens by 1887, two years after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the founding of the community.

Mechanics institute
In his book 'Pioneering in Northern Ontario', Vince Crichton wrote that a meeting was held in the CPR restaurant on December 13, 1887 with the purpose of forming a "Reading Club or Library". The first library appears to have been in a room at the Royal Hotel, but it burned down and by 1889 land had been obtained from the CPR for the construction of a Mechanics Institute built on a site across from the Bridgeview Motel on Birch Street.

According to Wikepedia, mechanics' institutes,  the first one established in Edinburgh, Scotland  contained inspirational and vocational reading matter, for a small rental fee. Later popular non-fiction and fiction books were added to these collections in the library section. Other services were also provided.

The Mechanics Institute was a described as an "elaborate structure", for the times and included the library, a reading room, a hall and space for oganizations to meet in a two-storey building. By the end of 1890, the library had 178 members and 894 volumes. It cost $621.02 to build.

By 1895, ladies had become active members,and in 1899 when J.B. Dexter was president of the institute 200 new books were purchased bringing the total number of volumes to 1408 of which 1201 were taken out over the previous year.

Disaster struck in 1910 when the Mechanics Institute burned down resulting in a total loss not only of all the library holdings but municipal records too as it had also become the Town Hall after Chapleau was incorporated as a municipality in 1901.

After G.B. Nicholson and his wife Charlotte built St. John's Memorial Hall in memory of their son Lorne and all the Chapleau men who had been killed in World War I, a library was located there but it appears that interest waned for a number of years. Mr. Nicholson was the first reeve of Chapleau. St. John's Memorial Hall is now the Legion Hall.

At some point, it was relocated to a small room in the Town Hall which later became the reeve's office.

However, in 1957 led by Marion Hueston, a movement was launched to establish "a real public library" for Chapleau, according to an article by Margaret Costello.

Vince Crichton wrote that a better site was needed and William Austin agreed to provide one in the building once called "tenement row" on Birch Street where the Bargain Shop is now located. A.L. Morse of Sheppard and Morse Lumber Company donated all the white pine for shelving while the Chapleau Rotary Club bought and laid all the new linoleum flooring while Nick Coreau and J.M. 'Jack' Shoup took charge of erecting the shelves. It opened in April 1958.

First board members were Mrs. Hueston, Mrs. Cecile, Margaret Costello, Mrs. William Burrows and Vince Crichton.

The new board was warned not to be discouraged because "maybe the library idea would not catch on like wildfire" and it may take five years to be accepted. Within two years the library had 1200 members and housed more than 4800 books. It did catch on!

By 1965, the location again had to be moved as Cecil Smith had bought the property and needed it to build a new Stedmans store. 

Town Hall
Back to the Town Hall it went but this time to the auditorium the site of many plays, concerts, meetings as well as a coutroom but hardly used for anything by the 1960s. For several years only the floor space was used but as its membership grew, more was required.

Mrs. Doris Marchioni, the librarian in 1973 explained the situation to Maggie Costello. Mrs. Marchioni said it was a matter of not enough room for all a real library needs -- not enough room for books, for sufficient tables for those who may be doing research or just to read, let alone proper facilities for the staff to work comfortably, and finally storage.

The library staff was moved on to the stage, while new bookshelves lined the walls, reading tables were added, and according to Maggie Costello, "...everything looks much more inviting, brighter and lighter and there's much more breathing space."

When the township council decided to proceed with the civic centre, the library board became enthusiastic partners in the project, and on June 28, 2013, will officially celebrate 35 years in the same location.

Frances (Jardine) Corston, now Lundquist added some information to my column on curling. She recalled her husband Henry mostly called by his nickname "Chicken" telling her that "the Corston men used their horse Billy to haul gravel from the gravel pit on their farm to level the ground for the new curling rink.  They ran out of money at some point and got the necessary funds from Chief Simon Cheez of the Ojibway people, with the understanding that native girls could curl..These girls were the Pirie girls, Mrs Barty. Mrs Fortunato. Mrs  Perfetto and Mrs Jack Green..I assume they must have agreed as they got the money,,,however..the women never did get to curl.....Mr. Corston in the picture was one of the rinks called the Half Ton Rink, because of their size...." Thanks Frances.
Thanks to Michael McMullen for research assistance.
My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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