History of Red Deer Children’s Library

On Nov. 8th, the new book, More Than Cobwebs and Dust, written by Laural Randall and illustrated by Lorlie Vuori, was officially launched at the Red Deer Public Library.

The book was written to celebrate the centennial of the Library and to provide a highly readable history of the current children’s wing of the Library.

Somewhat ironically, the Children’s Library was originally constructed for military purposes. It was initially the regimental headquarters for the 35 Central Alberta Horse. As the major military facility in Central Alberta, it was built in an impressive style.

Red tapestry brick and carved sandstone were used as finishing features.

Twin medieval style battlement towers were placed on the east end for offices and officer quarters. The cost of the structure was $50,000, a considerable sum at a time when $2 per day was considered a pretty good wage.

Shortly after the Armouries were completed, the First World War broke out in the summer of 1914. The building became a hub of frenzied activity as it served as a recruitment and training centre for the hundreds of young men who rushed to enlist and serve ‘King and Country’.

Despite what initially appeared to be the Armouries’ impressive size, the facility quickly proved to be too small.

There was not enough room in the building to provide meals for the men. Consequently, they were marched down Ross Street to the Commercial (later the Club) Café for their meals. A large row of outhouses were constructed next to the Armouries, on the east side of 48 Ave. to provide toilet facilities for the soldiers.

Eventually, most of the training of the men was shifted to the Red Deer Fairgrounds on the southeast corner of the valley.

However, senior officers continued to be quartered in the Armouries. The west side continued to serve as a drill hall. The basement had a large rifle range.

After the end of the War, the Armouries continued to be used by the Department of Militia for training and administrative offices. The building also became a major community centre with many dances and other social events being held there.

The Armouries became a recruitment headquarters during the Second World War, although most training took place at the A-20 military training camp, north of 55 St.

The Armouries was a training and administrative facility again after the end of the War. It also continued to be a popular community and recreational centre.

In 1961, the Red Deer Fire Department moved from its cramped quarters in the old City Hall into the Armouries. Ironically, as the building was being transferred from the Department of National Defense to the City, a major fire broke out, seriously damaging the east end of the building.

In the early 1990s, the Fire Hall was relocated to a new facility. The Library acquired the building for use as a proposed Children’s Library.

However, the project faced significant challenges because of major spending cutbacks by all levels of government. Fortunately, an impressive and highly successful public fundraising drive was launched with Hazel Flewwelling as the head of the committee.

As the fundraising campaign was underway, the building was used by the Library as the Fire Hall Fun Factory, with many popular and innovative activities for children and the public in general. Finally, the conversion project was completed. The Children’s Library officially opened on Sept. 17th, 1995.

The Children’s Library flourished as an important activity and learning centre for children and youth. The huge crowds that flocked through the facility during the Festival Lights The Night event on Nov. 22nd are but one indication of the ongoing popularity and success of the Red Deer Public Library.

The book, More Than Cobwebs and Dust, can be purchased from the Public Library for only $15 and would make a wonderful Christmas present.