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