Story by Kim Willis
Photography by Michael Pietrangelo
The City of Windsor recently opened doors to a new library. The W.F. Chisholm Branch, located on Ypres Avenue in South Walkerville is a $2.46 million, 6,500 square foot facility with a distinctly automotive theme. It is connected to the west end of the Optimist Community Centre. It has all the bells and whistles of a modern learning institution, but it’s the automotive history that makes it distinctive.
With its automotive theme and décor, it seems only fitting that the branch is named in honour of one of Windsor’s beloved automotive families. Bill Chisholm was a well-respected local automotive executive and founder of Rose City Ford Sales Limited. Windsor Public Library CEO Kitty Pope considers the naming of the new branch a fitting tribute to Bill.
“He has worked tirelessly for Windsor and our automotive industry. His entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with his willingness to challenge himself in the world of business in a respectful manner is the epitome of a successful business professional.”
Bill’s son John and his wife Sophia approached the library with the suggestion of naming the new library as a tribute to his father.
“We quickly realized that Bill’s inspirational career is perfectly aligned with this library which houses the Windsor Public Library’s Automotive Archives,” says Pope. Owner and President of Rose City Ford John was thrilled at the opportunity to establish a legacy in appreciation of his father.
“My father’s determination to launch himself as a successful and respected member of the local retail automotive industry is a story of resilience, integrity and belief in his community. I know that I speak for every employee – past and present – at Rose City Ford, in expressing our heartfelt pleasure in being able to support this initiative and leave a lasting ‘thank you’ to our founder.
Born in Nova Scotia in 1932, Bill Chisholm moved to Windsor with his family at the age of ten. His first full-tine job after high school was delivering milk which may have helped hone his people skills. Opportunity knocked in 1955 when he was hired as a brake tester on the Chrysler assembly line. Evening typing classes enabled him to work his way into the data processing department and eventually he became National Sales Manager for Chrysler Canada, where he travelled the country working with Chrysler dealers and getting the bug to be his own boss.
At the age of 41, Bill resigned from Chrysler Canada to pursue his dream of operating a car dealership. After stints as general manager of Clearwater Dodge in Windsor and owner of Kitchener Plymouth Chrysler, Bill moved his family home to Windsor.
In 1981 when interest rates were high and many automotive dealerships were struggling, Bill purchased a Ford franchise in Windsor and Rose City Ford Sales Limited was born. Bill’s final sale in the car business took place in 1996 when he decided to retire and sell the dealership to his son John. Today, at the age of 85 Bill plays golf, travels and is proud of the successful city of roses landmark that he created.
Bill’s story will be remembered with the naming of the new branch in his name. This 21st century building has a distinct automotive theme. The Automotive Archives are the first of their kind in Canada, consisting of a collection of 4,600 volumes including rare automotive memorabilia and a collection of original designed sketches by a leading car designer and will share space with a total collection size of 22,000 volumes comprising print, audio, video and multilingual resources for people of all ages. Included are rare vehicle service manuals, dealer publicity materials dating back decades, manufacturing plans for classic models and a set of rare design concept sketches from a prominent vehicle designer.
“I’ve been involved in the auto industry as long as I can remember,” says William “Bill” Chisholm. “The information housed in the library hasn’t been available to the public. It’s been scattered around the city. I think it’s wonderful that it’s now easily accessible to everyone.”
Public tech space including study space WIFI, and computers complement the archives and serve as a modern and comfortable area for further research and learning. The library has a warm, welcoming atmosphere including a fireplace and sitting areas.
The facility was designed by architect Dan Amicone of Architecttura Inc. He captured the essence of the automotive industry in the design. From the outside the building looks more like an automotive garage than a library. Inside there are images of the car industry found throughout the facility. There are large garage doors than can be opened to a patio. The plan is to open the doors in nice weather and host functions on the patio. Even the windows are decorated with auto-themed art.
City of Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says the new branch is a fitting tribute to local automotive history.
“Windsor is Canada’s Motor City and the new library at the Optimist Community Centre taps into our heritage through innovative design and layout. The facility will ensure the community remains strong and vibrant and our automotive heritage isn’t forgotten. The Automotive Archive will be a fascinating window into an important part of Windsor-Essex history and a must-see visit for everyone.”