In 1807, Penn Township was formed from the western portion of the Township of Northern Liberties. The area surrounding Widener Branch was usually called North Penn. In the mid 19th Century, the neighborhood was known as Swampoodle. The area developed after trolleys became electrified in 1892 and is now known as Strawberry Mansion/Allegheny West.
In 1900, the H. Josephine Widener Branch of the Free Library was opened in the Widener Mansion at Broad and Girard, a gift of Peter A.B. Widener in memory of his wife. In 1946, the Widener mansion was sold. The proceeds were used to buy and remodel a former bank building at 2531 W. Lehigh Avenue.
Designed by architects Buell, Kratzer and Powell, the current building opened on January 31, 2005. The library is based on the theme of the African Plains, with four special areas for youths: Preschool Plains, School-Age Savanna, Pre-Teen Plateau, and Teen Terrain. Abstract elephants and giraffes are hidden in the design of the library. Can you find them?