Vancouver History: The Carnegie Building

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Stopping by my daily history read, I learned that it was on this day 30 years ago that the Carnegie Building reopened as the Carnegie Reading Room. Located at the intersection of Main and Hastings, I thought it would be worthy of the history profile to see how the building has been a part of the community for over a century.

1902 – Carnegie Library under construction, Item #: CVA 1376-27

“On March 25th, 1901 Vancouver requested and was granted $50,000 from US steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to build a library. Carnegie agreed to give the funds only if the city furnished a site and agreed to spend $5,000 a year. The city council accepted the Carnegie gift and its conditions.” – (

1903 – Major Matthews collection, Item#: Bu P116.3

Built in 1903, it was indeed the first public library in Vancouver. In 1957 the library moved on to a bigger location and it became the home of the Vancouver Museum for ten years. In 1967 the museum moved out and the building lay vacant. “Following a massive campaign spearheaded by the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association City Council agreed to save the building and convert it to a community Centre. Carnegie Community Centre opened its doors to the public on January 20, 1980.” – (

190? – Photographer: Trueman, Richard H., Item #: Str P322

Once again part of the Vancouver Public Library system, the City refers to it as “The Downtown Eastside’s Livingroom”.

2005- Photo credit: squeaky marmot on Flickr

Carnegie also has some beautiful architecture including skylights and a towering spiral staircase.

Carnegie Community CentreServices include the public reading room, a seniors centre, a learning/literacy centre, a kitchen (serving 3 meals a day), an art gallery, an auditorium & gym, and even a dark room along with a pottery room for creative classes.

2008- Photo credit: Fecki on Flickr

It’s an amazing building that is testament to the diverse community of Vancouver’s Eastside and the determination to make a progressive, educational, and safe centre for all. It’s open 9:00am until 11:00pm every single day of the year, every day of the week, and is worth checking out.

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8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. PhanyxxWednesday, January 20th, 2010 — 2:05pm PST

    Great article! Coincidentally, I went to take some pictures of the Carnegie building yesterday, but the drug dealers’ lookouts aren’t big fans of photography. I’m looking forward to the day when that potion of Hastings st is a healthy, functioning neighbourhood.

  2. temporarily unavailableFriday, January 22nd, 2010 — 5:54pm PST

    Today the Carnegie building looks like a hub / meeting point for a lot of sad looking people. Does anyone know, what they are doing there – in such numbers?

  3. mainNhastingsSaturday, January 23rd, 2010 — 5:03pm PST



  4. mainNhastingsSaturday, January 23rd, 2010 — 5:03pm PST



  5. HannaTuesday, February 23rd, 2010 — 7:20pm PST

    Since January 20th 1980 the Carnegie Centre has offered a variety of programs at no cost to it’s members( with the exception of the annual $1.membership fee) There is a ballroom dance program on Sunday’s, Cultural Sharing on Monday, Music Jams of all kinds and a Cabaret weekly. The centre is often said to be used by more Chinese Seniors than the Chinese Cultural Centre. There are choirs, stage bands, volleyball, literacy programs, and a great affordable cafeteria, and more, a lot more. It is assumed by the people who listen to the news, and look on the outside of the building, that it is a desolate and sad place, maybe they’re projecting. It’s messed up like any place, but it is far from desolate, and indeed very sad some days, but it is always lively. Which is more than I can say for the rest of the city, with the exception of now, where people are pumped up on patriotism and coke. Better than the usual beige and glass, snotty business that usually goes on.

  6. HannaTuesday, February 23rd, 2010 — 7:23pm PST

    As far as numbers, they have about 400 volunteers, 150 which are active, and a number that’s been thrown around for years is 2,000 through the doors each day, I don’t know about that one, but I’m sure it’s close on some days. I’d say a few hundred. Best to check and call if your really interested. The front desk should know.

  7. jeffTuesday, March 30th, 2010 — 9:32pm PDT

    so cool.

    very envious of vancouver’s history. can’t wait to visit again soon!


  8. Kemp EdmondsTuesday, March 30th, 2010 — 9:48pm PDT

    Great work hitting the history books and finding the photos. Do you go to Vancouver Archives online or other resources to find them? Your Vancouver history posts are always enjoyable and enlightening, cheers!

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