1210 Sherbrooke Est
At one end of the Parc Lafontaine, we reach Sherbrooke Street and to my surprise, I discovered this beautiful art-nouveau construction. Engraved “Bibliotheque de la Ville de Montreal” at its top, we inevitably understand the purpose of this construction: a library (bibliotheque is French for library). The exterior look gave me vibes of a déjà vu building and for a good reason, the Museum of Beaux-Arts located at 1380 west of the same street does show architectural similarities.
If we go back in time, in 1904, a dedicated public reading room was approved by the city of Montreal and was located within the walls of today’s Monument National building (on Saint-Laurent Boulevard). However, the interest and curiosity of many to new information was strong and shortly after, a newer and bigger space was needed. In 1911, the library was moved to another location which again became too small with collection donations. The story repeats itself. An even bigger knowledge center was needed but this time the church was frigid at the idea of access to information that could be compromising and questioning their faith.
After negotiation, in 1914, the construction of the 1210 Sherbrooke East building started and was publically accessible in 1917. Books that were considered improper and “dangerous” were set aside and locked in a dedicated room hidden from the public for years.
In 1941, the basement of the construction was adapted as a youth library and in 1947 a film archive section was added. With the modernization, and the needs of the community, the library was moved in 2005 and its collections were transferred to the Grande Bibliotheque on Maisonneuve Street adjacent to the University of Quebec in Montreal.
The purpose of the Sherbrooke building has been converted but has kept its grandiose architectural features and is now named Edifice Gaston-Miron, after a renowned poet from the province. The Conseil des Arts de Montreal and the Conseil du Patrimoine de Montreal both have their offices in the building since 2009. Other rooms are rented for performance repetitions or exhibitions. Since 2016, it also holds the storeroom for the Radio-Canada production costumes which includes more than 70,000 pieces of clothing and accessories.
If you have the chance to visit, take some time to admire the ceiling and the lighting.
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