In March 1894, the Free Library of Philadelphia opened its first central branch in this iconic Center City building.
Can you guess which building?
Answer: City Hall
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s genesis came in the form of an 1889 bequest of $225,000 from George S. Pepper, a local philanthropist, to establish a free, public library in the city. After his death in 1890, Pepper’s nephew, William, brought together a group of people to carry out the bequest. In the following year, Pepper and his team chartered “for the use of the People of Philadelphia, a general library which shall be free to all.” But even though the charter was in place, due to litigation surrounding the bequest, it would be three years before the library would open, and longer still before it received its own building.
In March 1894, the new Free Library of Philadelphia, now without any legal entanglements, opened its first central library in three rooms of the new City Hall, which was still in the throes of construction itself. William Pepper served as the library’s head until his death in 1898. It would be nearly another thirty years before the central branch of the Free Library would receive permanent and current home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.