Free Library of Philadelphia, Manayunk Branch, Fleming and Dupont Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA
- Upscale 2x7680x6174
Significance: Completed in 1908, the Manayunk Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia was the tenth of twenty-five branch libraries built through an endowment from industrialist-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The impact of Carnegie's grant program on the development of public libraries cannot be overstated. He came of age in an era when libraries were rare, privately funded institutions and access was through subscription. Believing in the power of libraries to create an egalitarian society that favored hard work over social privilege by allowing equal access to knowledge, between 1886 and 1917 he provided forty million dollars for the construction of 1,679 libraries throughout the nation. The vast resources that Carnegie allotted to library research and construction contributed significantly to the development of the American Library as a building type. In addition, by insisting that municipalities contribute a building site, books, and annual maintenance funds before bestowing grants, Carnegie elevated libraries from the arena of private philanthropy to that of civic responsibility.
Philadelphia was the recipient of one of the largest of Carnegie's library grants. Although the city was among the first to establish a free library system, it had no purpose-built structures prior to the endowment. The branch libraries were built between 1905 and 1930, under the direction of the city appointed Carnegie Fund Committee, and designed by a "who's-who" of Philadelphia's architects. The twenty extant branch libraries remain as a remarkable intact and cohesive grouping, rivaled only by that of New York City, with fifty-seven. Manayunk Branch was designed by architect Benjamin Rush Stevens in the Beaux Arts styling and symmetrical T-plan that came to define Carnegie Libraries in Philadelphia as well as nationwide. However, its fine details, massing, and scale make it one of the more elaborate of the Philadelphia branches.
Survey number: HABS PA-6758
Building/structure dates: 1908 Initial Construction