The Parkway Central Library has been a mainstay on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for decades now, nestled in the cultural heart of the city of Philadelphia alongside neighbors like the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others.
And today, our flagship location is celebrating a big anniversary – 90 years!
Opened to the public on June 2, 1927 at its current home at 1901 Vine Street on Logan Square, the Parkway Central Library's Beaux-Arts building was designed by prominent Philadelphia architect Julian Abele, who had been the first black student admitted to the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Today, the Parkway Central Library welcomes over one million visitors each year from Philadelphia and well beyond, with customers attending public events, exploring special collections, and enlisting the expertise of librarians and curators in an array of subject matter.
As we celebrate nine decades of knowledge on the Parkway and toast to many more to come, here are nine special components of the library to add to your list for your next visit!
The Rare Book Department
Located on the third floor of the Parkway Central Library, the Rare Book Department offers free access to exhibitions of historically important books, manuscripts, and works of art from 3,000 BCE to today, open to the public Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Highlights include some of the largest collections of works by Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as original artwork by Beatrix Potter.
The Culinary Literacy Center
Since 2014, the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (CLC) has been revolutionizing the way Philadelphians think about food, nutrition, and literacy. It aims to advance literacy in a unique and innovative way: with a fork and spoon. The CLC is a commercial-grade kitchen that serves as a classroom and dining space for Philadelphians, where chefs of all ages can experiment with new foods, new tools, and new ideas, and all programs are designed to empower Philadelphians to take charge at the market and behind the stove!
The Montgomery Auditorium
Home to the renowned Author Events series, the Montgomery Auditorium is a nearly 400-seat lecture hall and performing arts stage where some of the world’s most celebrated authors and cultural icons have appeared before packed houses.
The Skyline Terrace
The Free Library’s fourth floor is home to the iconic Skyline Room and Terrace, which incorporates one of the first municipal green roofs in the city. The Terrace is a picturesque location for weddings, social functions, and any number of events, complete with a breathtaking view of the Philadelphia skyline.
The recently restored Philbrick Hall, located on the ground floor, houses the Free Library’s fiction and popular culture collections and central circulation department. Thousands of Philadelphians sign up for and receive their very first library card in this space, and it is also home to the Interlibrary Loan Department, which assists customers in borrowing materials not owned by the Free Library in cooperation with other libraries across the country.
The Music Department
The Free Library’s Music Department is a conservatory-quality music library that serves musicians and music lovers of all ages and skill levels. It lends chamber music part-sets, sheet music, and even musical instruments! Listening stations allow for the enjoyment of any of the tens of thousands of reference recordings, while the Free Library’s Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music is the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance part sets, offering more than 21,000 titles.
Central Senior Services
The Free Library’s Senior Center organizes a rich menu of compelling and intellectually challenging programs for older adults, as well as a comfortable lounge for seniors to access computers, complete with tutors available three afternoons a week to provide individualized assistance.
Housing the most comprehensive collection of maps and geographically related references sources in the area, the Free Library’s Map Collection includes over 130,000 current and historical maps covering every corner of the world. The collection is especially strong in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania maps and atlases.
The Parkway Central Library’s lobby and grand staircase presents of the most beautiful views in the city, leading up to the statue of Dr. William Pepper on the landing. Pepper chartered the Free Library of Philadelphia system in 1891 through an initial bequest from his uncle, George S. Pepper.
Be sure to add these points of interest to your must-see list the next time you’re in the area, or, take a tour of the Parkway Central Library today!
To see more, visit our collection of more than 300 historical photographs of the Parkway Central Library!