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History of Port Hope’s Library Service and its Carnegie Building

  • 1852
    The first Mechanic’s Institute was established in Port Hope. It held 750 books and had 60 members, each of whom paid an annual membership of $4.00. Mechanic’s Institutes were educational establishments formed to provide adult education, primarily of a technical nature, to working men.
  • 1872 
    The second Mechanic’s Institute was established in Port Hope on Walton Street. It had a collection of 5,000 books.
  • 1912
    The Town of Port Hope requested a grant from the Carnegie Foundation to build a public library. The 31 Queen Street site was purchased for $600. The building was completed at a cost of $25,000 and opened in October 1913.

                 Port Hope Public Library's Carnegie Building, circa 1912


  • 1938
    The basement lecture room was converted into the Children's Library.
  • 1962
    The Library installed a telephone. The Kinsmen Club of Port Hope donated $2,000 and all the required labour to renovate the Children’s Library.
  • 1971
    The building was expanded. The central staircase and stone columns were removed from the front façade. The expansion had a budget of $65,000.
  • 1982
    The Town of Port Hope and the Rotary Club funded a $135,000 project to install an elevator. The front door was once again relocated to accommodate the elevator.

                                      Port Hope Public Library, circa 1999


  • 1994
    The Library catalogue and circulation functions were automated.
  • 2000
    Municipal government amalgamation of the Town of Port Hope and Hope Township occurs.  Port Hope Public Library is expanded to include the Garden Hill Branch, formerly part of the Northumberland County Library System.
  • 2001
    Construction on the renovation and expansion of the Queen Street building began in January and was completed in December. The $2.2 million dollar project modernized the facility, doubled the space and restored the façade, complete with columns, to one that more resembled the original Carnegie building. Library services were relocated to a storefront in a plaza during that year.
  • 2002
    The renovated building, renamed the Mary J. Benson Branch of Port Hope Public Library, reopened in January.
  • 2006
    Port Hope Public Library is awarded the Ministry of Culture’s Angus Mowat Award for Excellence for its Library.Card.Cool initiative. 
  • 2007
    Port Hope Public Library is awarded the Ministry of Culture’s Angus Mowat Award for Excellence for its Open a Book, Open a Business initiative, the only library to have done so two years in a row.
  • 2012
    Port Hope Public Library celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Carnegie Free Library 1912-2012.


                    Port Hope Public Library, Mary J. Benson Branch, circa 2002