Lobby Exhibition, 1947 Floral Motif on Column


75th Anniversary Main Page


The First Central Library Buildings and the Quest for a New Home, 1894-1910

Branch No. 1 of the Philadelphia Public Library Mayor Charles F. Warwick's pen 1894 Founder Dr. William Pepper and Head Librarian John Thomson, initiate a fundraising campaign for land purchase and building construction.



Librarian John Thomson at desk in City Hall library, 1894 Watercolor of Concert Hall and Chestnut Street Theater 1894 The Free Library moves from a few overcrowded rooms in City Hall to the old Concert Hall Building at 1217-1221 Chestnut Street. However, library officials dislike the cramped location because of its unsafe and unsanitary conditions. They also consider the next-door theater and saloon to be inappropriate neighbors for a library.


1897 loan ballot 1897 Philadelphia voters approve a referendum for a municipal loan that includes up to "one million dollars for library site and building." Over the next several years, a library committee considers numerous sites, including Logan Square.




Advertisement for Proposals for a Free Library Main Building Site 1902 The Library's Board of Trustees solicits "sealed proposals" for a site, in local newspapers. Submissions include one that would demolish our Academy of Music, but all are rejected.




Main Reading Room at the Free Library, 1200 block of Chestnut 1903 Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donates $1.5 million to the Free Library to erect thirty branches, initiating a library building boom. Carnegie's generosity opens avenues of literacy to many working-class and immigrant Philadelphians; but this massive campaign forces the Library's Board to lose some momentum in their search for a central location.


Main Library on 1200 block of Chestnut, 1905 1905 Efforts to find a suitable home for a main building are heightened. The School of Industrial Art (Broad and Pine Streets) becomes a prime candidate, but the deal collapses.





Invitation to a preview of the Main Library Building at 13th and Locust Exterior of the Main Library Building at 13th and Locust 1910 The Free Library moves to the College of Physicians building at Thirteenth and Locust Streets (northeast corner, now a surface parking lot). It remains here until moving to its current location in 1927.


Floral Motif on Column
Floral Motif on Column
Floral Motif on Column
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