Explore the Library of Parliament

On this page

About the Library of Parliament

The Library of Parliament is the last remaining part of the original Centre Block building. It opened in 1876 and was the only section to survive the fire of 1916. It overlooks the bluffs of the Ottawa River and the province of Quebec.

In 2006, we finished restoring and modernizing the Library. The Library is connected to the Centre Block building, but it is not part of the Centre Block restoration project. The Library is temporarily closed while the Centre Block undergoes the largest heritage restoration project that Canada has ever seen.

The origins of the Library

A few years after Parliament found a permanent home in 1857, construction of the Centre Block and the Library began. Architects Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones designed the plans for the original Centre Block using a High Victorian version of the Gothic Revival style.

The Library opened in 1876. With its circular shape and use of galleries, it reflected the vision of the architects and the prudence of the first Parliamentary Librarian, Alpheus Todd. He 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 to the Library of Parliament are impressed by its massive flying buttresses, ornamental ironwork and handcrafted detail, and the abundant natural light. 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 Canada and the 7 provinces existing in 1876. In the centre of the room stands a white marble statue of a young Queen Victoria, sculpted by Marshall Wood in 1871.

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, and it was reduced to rubble. Fortunately, the corridor and the heavy iron doors that separated the Library from the Centre Block helped to save the Library.

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 major repairs. We completely restored the interior and the exterior of the Library between 2002 and 2006 while adding modern climate control systems and earthquake-proofing features.
Work included:

The Library of Parliament’s branch at 125 Sparks Street is serving as the interim Main Library while the Centre Block is being renovated. The collection was moved from the Centre Block to Sparks Street and 6 other Library locations for the duration of the project.

Learn more about how we restore and modernize the Parliament buildings.

Enlarged image of the Library of Parliament

Related links

Date modified: