Collection Spotlight

The Library’s Parquet Floor  

When you enter the Library, you are stepping into – and onto – history. The Library’s elegant parquet floor is part of its storied past.

The parquet flooring covers the entire main level of the Library. The wood used for the short planks in the floor are black walnut, white oak and cherry. The planks are laid in various patterns that respect the distinctive architecture of the octagonal-shaped building. The Department of Public Works developed the original design for the floor, which was inspired by a brochure entitled “Parquet and marquetry flooring, ornamental hardwood floor.”

Construction of the Library was well under way in 1874, when Chief Architect Thomas Seaton Scott decided to use ornamental wood flooring instead of the Portland cement floor originally planned. A year later, architect and measurer of works John Bowes travelled to Widder, in Lambton County, Ontario, to buy the wood. Bowes selected different types of Canadian wood, whose rich tones could be used to create striking patterns in the floor.

Remarkably, the parquet floor suffered only light water damage when the Library survived the 1916 fire that completely destroyed Centre Block. In 1952, however, a fire in the Library’s dome required 750,000 litres of water to put it out. The floor could not be saved and a replica was installed.

During the Library rehabilitation, which was undertaken between 2002 and 2006, the Library was given a brand-new parquet floor. To duplicate the original as closely as possible, 18,000 pieces of walnut, oak and cherry wood were carefully selected, cut and installed.

Details

  • The room’s interior diameter is 26.5 metres.
  • During the 2002–2006 Library rehabilitation, the wood planks chosen to recreate the original flooring were marked with bar codes that identified their exact placement in the new floor.
  • To reduce waste, some materials removed during the Library’s rehabilitation were repurposed. This included the parquet flooring, which was used to make pens.
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The main entrance to the Library opens onto one of the eight herringbone aisles.

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This close-up shows the different wood types and tones.

Parquet Floor

The parquet floor pattern follows the Library’s octagonal shape.