Explore the Library of Parliament

Overlooking the bluffs of the Ottawa River and the province of Québec, the Library of Parliament has been admired since it opened in 1876. Since its rehabilitation was completed in 2006, a new generation of visitors are discovering this magnificent Library.

The origins of the Library

The Library of Parliament started in the legislative libraries of Upper and Lower Canada in the 1790s. These libraries were merged in 1841, the year the United Province of Canada was founded.

A few years after Parliament found a permanent home in 1857, construction of its Library began. Architects Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones designed the plans for a Gothic Revival building in the High Victorian style. They explained that the Library "could be adapted to a site at once so picturesque and so grand."

The Library opened in 1876. With its circular shape and use of galleries, the building reflected the dreams of the architects and the prudence of the first Parliamentary Librarian, Alpheus Todd. Mr. Todd suggested that the architects add fire-safety measures. Those measures would later save the Library from sure destruction during the fire of 1916.

An architectural marvel

Visitors of the Library of Parliament are impressed by its massive flying buttresses, ornamental ironwork and handcrafted detail. These striking elements represent the architectural style and vision of its designers.

Inside, the Library's white pine panelling contains carvings of thousands of flowers, masks and mythical beasts. Its galleries display the coats of arms of the seven provinces existing in 1876 and that of the Dominion of Canada. In the centre of the room stands a white marble statue of Queen Victoria. It was sculpted by Marshall Wood in 1871.

View enlarged image of the Library's statue of Queen Victoria

Fire at the Centre Block

In 1916, a fire broke out in the Centre Block. By the following morning, the Centre Block was reduced to rubble. Fortunately, the corridor and the heavy iron doors that separated the Library from Centre Block helped saved the Library. Then in 1952, the Library's cupola—its beautiful dome—caught fire. The fire caused extensive smoke and water damage to the wood floors and walls. The Library's walls were dismantled, sent to Montréal for cleaning and fireproofing, and reinstalled. A replica of the floor was re-laid.

Learn more about the events surrounding the fire of 1916.

Modernizing the Library

By the turn of this century, the Library needed aesthetic and structural repairs. In 2002, work began to completely modernize the interior and the exterior of the Library.

Today, the fully rehabilitated Library contains over 600,000 items and employs over 350 people. It serves the information, research and documentation needs of Parliament. Its vast collection covers hundreds of years of history, and it has survived and evolved through years of peril and progress.

Learn more about how parliamentary buildings are rehabilitated.

View enlarged image of the Library of Parliament

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