Before 1854, when the area became incorporated into the city of Philadelphia, the future neighborhood of West Oak Lane was made up of settlements called Pleasantville, Cedar Park and Pittville. As the region was mostly farmland in the 19th century, they were not really towns, just crossroads or a few acres of cleared land.
It is reported that a realtor began calling this collection of settlements West Oak Lane to distinguish it from Oak Lane, which occupied the area east of Old York Road and Broad Street. The area was officially named West Oak Lane in 1925, when real estate development began in earnest.
Limekiln Pike takes its name from the limestone quarries in Montgomery County, the road's original terminus. This old road, running north-south through the West Oak Lane community, was a toll road from 1735 to 1903. One of the toll gatehouses still stands.
A block away, Ogontz Avenue is named for Chief Ogontz, an Indian who entertained Civil War financier Jay Cooke when Cooke was a boy at his family's home in Sandusky Ohio. In 1865, Cooke named his Oak Lane mansion for Chief Ogontz.
The West Oak Lane Branch first opened to the public on August 26, 1957. 2,000 people visited the library during the first hour it was open. In 1980, disaster struck, and the West Oak Lane Branch was almost totally destroyed by fire. After reconstruction, it re-opened in 1985. The library was renovated in 2000 as part of the "Changing Lives" campaign, which brought Internet access to every branch.
Look for sculptures of abstract mask forms in the picture book area. Artist Charles Searles created them, reflecting his American, African and Native American heritage.