Lobby Exhibition, 1947 Floral Motif on Column

75th Anniversary Main Page

Floral Motif on Column
Ground-Breaking to the Completion of Exterior, 1916-1924

Why not keep at the good work and let the ashcart drive on?1916 Newly elected Mayor Thomas B. Smith pushes the library building campaign forward, authorizes the awarding of contracts, and approves $2,460,000 for the erection of the main branch.

1916 Trumbauer's updated plans are approved by the Art Jury on December 29, clearing the way for the next phase of the project.

1917 City officials accept construction bids on the immense project. Before they can award a contract, the project encounters more legal problems. Local masons and the Indiana limestone industry file opposing lawsuits that dispute city stone cutting ordinances and seek to block construction. The stone cutting litigation drags on for more than a year, limiting progress on the construction to initial excavation of the foundations.

Groundbreaking ceremony, May 12, 1917 Excavation of the site of the Central Library, 1918 Boys on rafts in water-filled excavation hole, c. 1919 1917-19 On May 12, 1917, library officials disregard pending legal action, as well as war in Europe, and hold their twice-postponed ground-breaking ceremony. World War I causes shortages of materials. In 1919, library officials suspend construction. Local children raft in the muddy water in the excavation pit.

American Library Association World War I poster 1920 Wartime restrictions and shortages ease, and library officials again restart the construction project. New Mayor J. Hampton Moore requests cost reductions. In response, Trumbauer decreases the library's size from seven to six million cubic feet and consulting engineer Percival M. Sax replaces the load-bearing masonry walls with a modern steel frame. With an updated design and adequate funding for the smaller building, library officials contract with the Standard Construction Company to lay the foundations. Free Library of Philadelphia sign soliciting books for soldiers

Lt. Brooks Lister, Philadelphia, D.W.

Construction of the foundation, October 6, 1921 1921 Laying of the building's foundations is completed in November.

1922 Trumbauer and his designers complete revised working drawings and specifications for the Main Library.

1922 On March 1, city officials award the contract for constructing the superstructure to the P. H. Kelly Construction Company, which submitted the low bid of $1,367,000. Construction work begins in April.

1923 The enormous library's skeletal structure now dominates Logan Circle.

Mayor J. Hampton Moore laying cornerstone, January 24, 1923 Engraved silver trowel from cornerstone laying ceremony 1923 On January 24, library officials and local dignitaries lay the limestone cornerstone. Following the ceremony, the contractor accelerates the construction pace. Within six months, the steel frame is completed and the limestone facade rises as high as the roof line.

1924 and 1925 Stone carvers employed by the John Donnelly Company sculpt the ornate limestone decoration, including seventy columns. Working 100 feet above the ground, artisans from Europe and the United States carve the white stone into delicate architectural ornaments. With the carving finished and the doors and windows set in place, Trumbauer's agent at the site declares the exterior complete in the spring of 1925.

Floral Motif on Column
Floral Motif on Column
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