Carving details on the main stairway, 1926 Floral Motif on Column

75th Anniversary Main Page

The Collection

The story of the complex and intriguing quest for, and design and construction of, the central Free Library building is portrayed through this collection of original and facsimile two and three-dimensional objects. The collection includes architectural plans, renderings, specifications, and blueprints. Significant items and groups of items are:

  • A magnificent original watercolor perspective of the Main Library Building
  • Recently discovered initial plans for the library, and other design documentation for the Main Library Building, the Parkway, Logan Square, architect John T. Windrim's Municipal Court, the library's pendant as well as other architectural projects by Trumbauer and Abele
  • Assorted textual documents such as an intriguing, terse letter from Andrew Carnegie refusing to contribute to the project
  • An engaging assessment of the library design by world-famous architect Paul P. Cret
  • Colorful invitations, postcards, and other souvenirs
  • Political cartoons offering insights into the project
  • Portraits and caricatures of the librarians, trustees, politicians, and benefactors who led the building effort
  • Personal photographs and mementos of the architects including a beautiful watercolor painting signed by Abele
  • Photographs documenting the site, construction, and completed building, the book storage and retrieval systems, and several milestone events such as the groundbreaking, cornerstone laying, and opening
  • The charter granted to the Free Library in 1891
  • An exquisite Art Nouveau letter opener belonging to the Assistant Librarian, who designed the original layout of the building; several rare publications related to the building and the Parkway
  • An engraved silver trowel commemorating the cornerstone laying ceremony
  • A station from the library's original pneumatic tube communications system
  • An elegant desk lamp that once graced the Main Reading Room
In addition to the extensive collections of materials held by the Free Library of Philadelphia, the exhibition draws upon other institutional and private collections. For a complete list please see Credits.


Floral Motif on Column
Floral Motif on Column
Floral Motif on Column Collection | Technical | Funding | Credits
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