NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE - The Queenston Library building — a cultural-educational and community centre housed in a 120-year-old restored church — was officially opened Saturday by Robert Welch, provincial secretary for social development.
The occasion was a grand one for this village where people, mobilized by the Queenston Community Association, for the past two years, gave time and money to bring the library building into existence.
The facility would not have been possible without this co-operative spirit. But in the beginning it was a Niagara Falls doctor, Djamal Afrukhteh who resides in Queenston, who put the dream before the people when he purchased the decaying church and donated it to Queenston. The people seized that dream and turned it into reality.
It cost $50,000 to restore the historic church, a stone building across the street from the Laura Secord homestead.
Mr. Welch told more than 200 people who squeezed into the building that the way the new library had developed over the past year says a great deal of the community-minded spirit of individual residents and groups in the Queenston area.
He praised the community for making the library not only a place where books were to be collected and stored but for making it a cultural and educational centre
"Queenston library is an outstanding example of the new directions which libraries today are taking and, further than that, it may itself be embarking on a new road in developing the role of the library for the future."
"By joining the two functions of community centre and library within this one structure, "he said, "you are not only encouraging the continuing support of the members of the community for your library, you are also bringing the library to the hub of the community's activities. And, because of this closeness, your library will be better able to keep up with the changing needs of your community during the coming years."
Mr. Welch who was presented a key to the library presented one to Dr. Afrukhteh who thanked a host of people and organizations for their part in the development of the library. They included Basil Clark, a lawyer, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, H.G. Acres of Niagara Falls which did the feasibility study on the building and the Queenston Community Association.
The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Niagara Parks Commission which donated some land to the facility and the Local Initiatives Program grant were also mentioned for their contributions to the project.
Aubrey Dickson, president of the association, perhaps best summed up the significance of the whole library project when he said it was "a monument to the area." "Today is a red letter for the old and young in this village."
Participating in the official opening were Lord Mayor Fred Goring, Basil Clark, John Pendergast, vice-president of the community association, Jack Niven, vice-president for works, library building committee, and Ken Higson, Lincoln MP.
The library which boasts 4,000 books at the moment features elegant light fixtures and a fireplace made from Queenston limestone.
The building has quite a history.
Built as a Baptist Church on the main street of the village, the building is nearly as old as the village of Queenston. Reubin Winchell and Solomon Vrooman, village residents, urged the establishment of a Calvinistic Baptist church.
The result was the 50-by-35 foot building which now houses the new library. A sturdy building with walls two feet thick, it is entirely constructed of irregularly mortared limestone blocks. The handcut limestone blocks were hauled to the site by the Vrooman family from the Queenston Quarry atop the escarpment.
The church had three Gothic style windows on its north and south sides and two on the front, one on each side of the front entrance way. There was no bell in the church's stone tower.
Inside, the walls were plastered, the floor was of wide, rough hewn joists, which like the larger roof supports were held in place by large wooden pegs.
Services were held in the church until after World War I when dwindling attendance forced its closing. After a decade of idleness, it was sold in 1928 to the Queenston's Women Institute which used the building for meetings until 1952. Occasional concerts were held there and during the Second World War it was used as a hospital supply centre for the preparation of bandages and dressings.
The building was sold in 1953 to a Shakespeare, Ont. resident but the building remained idle until 1967 when Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh purchased it. Dr. Afrukhteh donated the building to Niagara-on-the-Lake last year.