History of the Library


The Walnut Street West Branch opened on May 28, 1895, making it the fifth Philadelphia Public Library branch. It was housed in a suite of three rooms on the first floor of the West Philadelphia Institute at 40th and Ludlow Sts, and became a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on January 1, 1896. After outgrowing its space, the branch moved to the Hamilton School Building and was then known as the West Philadelphia branch.

The building Walnut Street West is currently housed in opened to the public on June 26, 1906. It was the first of 30 libraries funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie and was built at a cost of $80,387.68 on land donated by Clarence Clark, a West Philadelphia banker. Mr. Clark's will deeded the land to the city "in perpetuity" as long as a library sat on it. During the first year of operation, 79,683 books were borrowed from the branch. A lecture hall seating 300 people was part of the lower level.

In 1960, the branch added air conditioning and moved the public entrance to Walnut Street. The library was fully renovated in 2004, and the entrance was restored to its original location on 40th St. The library is close to a parking garage and a supermarket and serves the communities of University City and Spruce Hill.



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