Free Library of Philadelphia, Southwark Branch, 1108 South 5th Street , Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA
Significance: Southwark was one of twenty-five branch libraries constructed between 1904 and 1930 for the Free Library of Philadelphia using a $1.5 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Andrew Carnegie's public library construction grants were a major impetus to the growth of these institutions throughout the country. Philadelphia was second only to New York City in the size of the Carnegie grant and number of branch libraries constructed. Each jurisdiction receiving Carnegie library funds was responsible for providing a site and operating expenses equal to ten percent of the cost of construction. Prior to receiving the Carnegie funds in 1903, branch libraries of the Free Library of Philadelphia (founded 1891) were housed in a variety of preexisting structures. The Carnegie library construction campaign provided twenty-five purpose-built branch libraries for the City of Philadelphia, each designed within the ideal of efficient operation and using fashionable, if conservative, architectural forms and motifs.
Southwark was the thirteenth Carnegie branch library opened by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Plans for the structure were approved by the Free Library Board of Trustees Carnegie Fund Committee on November 25, 1910 and the branch opened to the public on November 8, 1912. The branch was located in a densely populated area of South Philadelphia and was immediately in great demand among the surrounding immigrant community. The Southwark Branch was designed by Philadelphia architect David Knickerbacker Boyd.
Survey number: HABS PA-6768
Building/structure dates: 1912 Initial Construction