Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA
Significance: The Central Library, built between 1917 and 1927, was designed by well-known architect Horace Trumbauer and his associate Julian Abele and it is the flagship of the Philadelphia Free Library system. Favoring French architecture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they based their design on the twin Ministère de la Marine and Hôtel de Crillon on Place de la Concorde in Paris. The library was the first structure to be erected along the city's new parkway, which was likewise inspired by Parisian precedents, namely the Champs d'Elysee. It too was the work of Horace Trumbauer, with architects Paul Cret, Clarence Zantzinger, and French planner Jacques Greber. Intended as a grand boulevard linking City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount Park, it was later named for Benjamin Franklin. The parkway and the civic structures and monuments that line it were a product of Philadelphia's City Beautiful movement.
Philadelphia was the recipient of one of the largest of industrialist-turned- philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's grants for library construction. Although the Central Library was not a component of the endowment, Carnegie financed the construction of its twenty-five branch libraries, erected between 1905 and 1930 under the direction of the city's Carnegie Fund Committee. The branch libraries remain as a remarkable intact and cohesive grouping rivaled only by that of New York City with its sixty-seven branches. The construction of the Central Library furnished a long-anticipated permanent home for the Free Library, an institution that was chartered in 1891 and previously housed in a number of pre-existing structures. When completed, Philadelphia's Central Library was touted as one of the most beautiful and technologically sophisticated libraries in the world, and its capacity of more than one million volumes was exceeded only by that of the British Museum, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress.
Survey number: HABS PA-6749
Building/structure dates: after. 1916- before. 1928 Initial Construction
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