W.K. Library’s history to be officially recognized


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/07/2022 (316 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After months of impassioned advocacy to save our treasured West Kildonan Library, I am thrilled to share that the branch at Jefferson Avenue and Powers Street is being considered for historical designation by the City of Winnipeg. After careful research and collaboration with stakeholders — including residents, library patrons, educators, and elected officials — it has been determined that this branch is an important piece of modernist architecture worthy of recognition.

The outpouring of support and fondness for the library is indicative of the community’s deep connections to this important landmark. After reviewing archival records from the former City of West Kildonan, it is clear to me the building was one of the most ambitious and prominent Canadian centennial projects in Manitoba. To ensure its success and longevity, library branches throughout the greater Winnipeg area were toured to ensure that West Kildonan would have one of the best facilities in the region.

The building was designed by George A. Stewart, an influential architect responsible for two other local libraries (Fort Garry and St. Vital). His design for West Kildonan Library was perhaps more ambitious and iconic due to its larger construction budget. Stewart won numerous architectural awards, served as president of the Manitoba Association of Architects and served with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. His design for West Kildonan Library is part of his architectural legacy and elevates Winnipeg’s profile as an enriched destination for Canadian design.

<p>The West Kildonan Library, pictured as it looked just after it opened in the late 1960s.</p>

The West Kildonan Library, pictured as it looked just after it opened in the late 1960s.

A historical designation would not mean changes could never be made to the library space. In fact, bestowing the library with historical designation would further support our community’s efforts to have reinvestments and enhancements made to the branch. Historical designation ensures that when upgrades are made, they value and uphold the original design and its defining features.

In addition to the prominence provided by historical designation, additional grants and funding are available for the refurbishment of historical buildings. The St. Vital Library, designed by the same architect, was granted historical designation in 2018 after residents prevented a similar closure a few years prior. Since then, the St. Vital branch has seen fantastic upgrades while retaining its original modernist design. In 2019, Heritage Winnipeg recognized this renovation and honoured the library with its annual Preservation Award.

It is an honour to continue the work of advocating for recognition of West Kildonan Library’s importance to our community. The fascinating history of this modernist architectural jewel is worthy of preservation in an official capacity. As the plaque on the front of the branch proudly states, it was built “in permanent commemoration” of the Canadian centennial in 1967. West Kildonan Library, including its architecture, must be officially recognized and protected for future generations and in the spirit of its visionary founders.

If you have any historical information about West Kildonan Library to share, please reach out. I look forward to sharing more exciting updates about this historical designation in the fall.

Daniel Guenther

Daniel Guenther
Garden City community correspondent

Daniel Guenther is president of the Garden City Residents’ Association and a community correspondent for his neighbourhood. Email him at: gardencitywinnipeg@gmail.com

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