The "Sir Harry Oakes Room" was a gift to the Library from Eunice, Lady Oakes, in memory of the late Sir Harry Oakes.
Initial planning for the room was done by former Chief Librarian Dorothy Van Slyke as part of the requirements for her Masters of Library Science Degree. The concept found approval with the Library Board and its New Building Committee.
Donald M. Chapman Associates, architects for the library, designed the room and its furnishings. John Tries Constructions Limited was the general contractor, and most of the custom furnishing was the work of Weller's of Scarborough specialists in pine reproduction work. The room reproduces a typical setting of the Niagara area in the early nineteenth century. It is made of pine, except for the maple chairs. Bookcases are ventilated to keep the priceless collection preserved.
Initially, the Library's ever-growing historical and genealogical collection of the City, the Niagara River and Falls, and the Niagara Peninsula was housed in the Oakes Room. The wide variety of rare material in these collections - including guidebooks, atlases, local histories, magazines, maps, photographs, art reproductions, newspapers, clippings, government reports and City Council minutes - were used extensively by staff and the public. As the collection grew, it had to be relocated, so the Oakes Room a quiet reading and study room and a small group meeting room.
There is a continuing appreciative response to the Sir Harry Oakes Room. The striking contrast between the contemporary architecture of the Library and the traditional style of the Oakes Room is visually exciting from both inside and outside the building. The collections, the usefulness and the aesthetic quality of the Sir Harry Oakes Room give it a vital and unique place within the Victoria Avenue Library.