Toronto’s architectural gems—the original Toronto Public Reference Library

03 Jul


Between the years 1906 and 1973, the building at 214 College Street, on the northeast corner of College and St. George Streets, was Toronto’s Public Reference Library. It was designed by Alfred H. Chapman, who studied in Paris and New York, but returned to Toronto to commence his architectural career. In the Beaux Arts style, it contains many classical details, particularly in the cornice and around the entranceway. The architecture is grandiose and dignified, befitting a reference library. Funds for the construction of the building were donated by Andrew Carnegie, who gave $350,000. The site on College Street was chosen by the city as it was close to the University of Toronto. For decades, its facilities were frequented by the students who attended Canada’s largest university. The first floor of the building has sets of paired windows, recessed into the grey stone. The upper portion is of yellow bricks, containing six large windows, two-storeys in heights, allowing generous light to enter the reading room in the interior.

During the years 1928 and 1929, the building was up-dated by Chapman and Oxley, with Wickson and Gregg. They designed an addition for the side of the building facing St. George Street. The building was declared a Heritage Building in 1973. The Public Reference Library relocated from the premises in 1977, moving to a location near Yonge and Bloor Streets.

Today the building is owned by the University of Toronto and houses the Koffler Student Services Centre . 


South facade on College Street, showing the paired windows on the ground floor and the two-storey windows in the floors above.

DSCN0596   DSCN0595

The ornate doorway with its detailed surround, and the trim in the cornice.


Cornice with a row of large dentils at the top, and ornate capitals of the Corinthian pilasters containing stylized fig leaves and Ionic-style scrolls.


South facade of the Reference Library (Koffler Student Centre) in March of 2013.


Location of the Toronto Public Reference Library at St. George and College Streets (map from Perly’s 1999 Edition)

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

The Commodore Building at 315-317 Adelaide St. West

The Graphic Arts Building (condo) on Richmond Street

The Art Deco Victory Building on Richmond Street

The Concourse Building on Adelaide Street

The old Bank of Commerce at 197 Yonge Street

The Traders Bank on Yonge Street—the city’s second skyscraper

Toronto’s old Union Station on Front Street, built in 1884

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at King and Simcoe Streets.

The row houses on Glasgow Street, near Spadina and College Streets

The bank at Queen and Simcoe that resembles a Greek temple

The cenotaph at Toronto’s Old City Hall

The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral at King East and Church Streets

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue, north of Queen West

The historical St. Mary’s Church at Adelaide and Bathurst Streets

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

The Union Building at Simcoe and King Street West

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

The Postal Delivery Building, now the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.


Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

To view other posts about Toronto’s past and its historic buildings:

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

A study of Osgoode Hall

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Toronto


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