Lobby Exhibition, 1947 Floral Motif on Column


75th Anniversary Main Page


City Planning, the Fairmount Parkway, and the Free library of Philadelphia

Color plan for an access boulevard from Broad Street to Fairmount Park Haupt: best arrangement of city streets 1892 Prominent Philadelphians petition city officials to reinitiate plans for a grand boulevard. This diagonal roadway running from City Hall to Fairmount Park was first proposed after the Civil War.



Map of the Grand Avenue to the Park Bird's-eye view, Park Boulevard 1892 City engineers produce plans for a tree-lined avenue slicing across the city to the hill where the Philadelphia Museum of Art will eventually be located. A few years later, the City Councils abandon the project during an economic recession.

Proposed parkway for Philadelphia 1903 The City Councils restart the Parkway Project. In response, Head Librarian John Thomson presses for "the establishment of the Main Library Building at the city entrance of the magnificent Boulevard." Yet, library officials cannot commit to a particular site because the avenue's construction schedule and route remain uncertain.



Blueprint of site of proposed Main Library building on the Parkway, 1906 Four plans for the Fairmount Parkway 1906 City officials confirm a Parkway path. During the next few months, library officials request a plot between Fifteenth and Sixteenth Streets for their main building. Architect Horace Trumbauer is selected to prepare a preliminary design.

Ceremonial Start of Construction of the Fairmount Parkway, 1907 1907 Trumbauer's sketches are presented, but further uncertainty over the Parkway's route stalls the library project again. In mid-1907, Trumbauer collaborates on an improved Parkway design that will be officially adopted in 1909. However, even after this important step, alterations to the Parkway plan by Mayor John Reyburn's Comprehensive Plans Committee impede the library project.

John Thomson, librarian 1910 Library officials petition for a main building site on the Fairmount Parkway at Logan Square.







Site of the Central Library prior to the demolition of extant buildings, 1909 Map of the streets of Philadelphia 1910 Library officials receive Mayor John E. Reyburn's agreement to "set aside the piece of land fronting on the proposed parkway as a site for the Building of The Free Library of Philadelphia." The mayor and library officials work diligently, acquiring the plot bounded by Nineteenth, Twentieth, Vine, and Wood Streets for $213,625 by the summer of 1911. In the fall, the Philadelphia House Wrecking Company demolishes the existing structures, clearing the way for the new library.

Letter from Andrew Carnegie to John Thomson1911 At the "First Municipal City Planning Exhibition in America," held at City Hall, an enormous model depicts the replanned Parkway, including a main Free Library building at the new site north of Logan Square.

Portrait of Horace Trumbauer 1911 Mayor Reyburn, in an effort to speed up construction, vetoes a proposed architects' competition and selects Horace Trumbauer as the library's architect. "Trumbauer's designs," the Mayor declares, are "commensurate with the magnitude and importance of the task, as well as practical and beautiful."


Caricature of Clinton Rogers Woodruff, chair of Main Library Site and Building Committee, 1911-1927 1911 In June, the Library Committee officially appoints Trumbauer as architect. Trumbauer declares that he will employ his "best professional endeavors in the preparation of acceptable plans and the erection of a Library building, which will be an architectural adornment to the City and its great Parkway." A jubilant Thomson publicly announces the Library's intentions a few days later, proclaiming that "it will be a very fine building and will be planned with proper regard to the importance and dignity of the city of Philadelphia."


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