The Map Collection has a series of Main Line railroad atlases, from the 1880s to the 1980s, that indicate land holdings and estate names
By looking through various historic city atlases and aerial photographs in the Map Collection, the construction date of a house can usually be determined within a ten or fifteen year time span.
The Free Library of Philadelphia can guide you to many different neighborhood resources. The Social Science and History Department at Parkway Central has history books on many neighborhoods and ethnic groups. It also has a vertical file of clippings and other information dealing with Philadelphia neighborhoods and local history in general. We also have a file that indexes information about neighborhoods and ethnic groups in other sources. All of these materials must be used at the Library. You can find the websites of community, business, and historical organizations of Philadelphia neighborhoods in the Social Science and History Department's Internet directory at www.delicious.com/freelibraryssh. You can also search for neighborhood profiles in newspapers in the Newspaper and Microfilm Department.
Some magazines are on the display racks across from the reference desk but most must be requested from a librarian. The department holds hundreds of mainstream and academic titles. You can search the online catalog for periodicals by entering a title and then clicking on "serial" on the right hand side of the screen. Issues from the last year are typically kept in the main reading room; older issues will either be in the stacks or will be available on microfilm in the Newspapers Department.
Many books in the Stacks can be checked out but this is the discretion of the librarians in the Social Science and History Department. A librarian will need to examine the book in question and assess its rarity and physical condition.