Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: Famous Places: The Cornish Library - 70 Years Old

by Christine Melnick

Manitoba History, Number 9, Spring 1985

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Cornish Bath and Cornish Library, c1915
Source: Archives of Manitoba

On 15 June 1984, Cornish Library celebrated its 70th birthday. This stately little building has stood at its present location since 1914. It exists thanks to the Carnegie Foundation. This foundation was set up by U.S. millionaire Andrew Carnegie in the belief that the best asset of a community should be its public library system. William Library and St. John’s Branch were also built through the Carnegie Foundation, and these, like the Cornish, remain open to serve Winnipeg users. The Cornish Library seems to have been destined for longevity, as it was named after Winnipeg’s first mayor, Francis Cornish, and was built in the rather prestigious Armstrong’s Point, replacing the original Winnipeg Waterworks. Indeed, the building held up well over the years, requiring only occasional attention. Administratively, the major changes came in 1979, when the old city of Winnipeg and the former cities surrounding it amalgamated, and as a result the Cornish Library became a part of the library subdivision of City Centre/Fort Rouge. The 15 June 1984 seventieth birthday party was a real success. Guests included Councillor Taylor, former staff, visitors from other libraries, and numerous past and present patrons. Among those in attendance was Mr. Harry Shortinghuis, a faithful patron of the library since 1919; he helped make the afternoon extra special by cutting the birthday cake. Visitors were able to browse through numerous displays. A photographic history of the Library and the site on which it stands was presented. Included in it were pictures of the original Winnipeg Waterworks, the Cornish Baths which were once located beside the Library, and various shots taken from 1914 to the present. Best Seller Lists and Public Library Bulletins from the early 1900’s captured much attention. A 1914 Henderson’s Directory proved to be a crowd pleaser as people located the old addresses of family and friends. Another display featured tributes to accomplished community members such as author Ralph Connor, who once lived at nearby 54 Westgate, poetess Dorothy Livesay, who resided for a time at 166 Lipton, and writer Ann Henry, still a faithful and favourite patron at Cornish. There was also a photographic walking tour of Armstrong’s Point and surrounding area, made available by Ruth Swan. The enjoyable afternoon reaffirmed the importance of a neighbourhood library. Special tribute should be paid to the Librarian, Mrs. Ksenia Trutnau, the Head of the Circulation Department, Mrs. Joey Bemister, and all the staff members. The cake and balloons are long gone, but the people at Cornish are eager to serve all who wish to visit the branch.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Cornish Library (20 West Gate, Winnipeg)

Page revised: 8 May 2011

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