The neighborhood of Lawndale was named after Lawndale and Company, a turn-of-the-century developer. Crescentville was named for the Crescent Factory, an early 19th-century rope plant. The whole region was once in Oxford Township, and became part of the city in 1854.
The Lawncrest branch came into being as the result of activism by a small number of concerned citizens. In March 1957, Mildred Pruitt launched a campaign to get a branch library constructed for the Lawndale and Crescentville sections of northeast Philadelphia. Library service in these communities was limited to weekly visits by the bookmobile. Students were forced to rely on the heavily used Greater Olney and Bushrod branches to complete school assignments and research.
Pruitt organized community meetings, started a petition drive at neighborhood schools and businesses, and founded the Lawn-Crest Library Association. The name of this group reflected the needs of both neighborhoods for full-time library service.
In April 1957, Free Library Director Emerson Greenaway addressed representatives of neighborhood civic groups at the Lawncrest Recreation Center. He outlined the steps needed to get a new library built. In May 1957, the library submitted a plan to build a new branch in Lawndale.
The Planning Commission turned down the library's proposal for the 1958 capital budget; instead recommending that funds be allocated from the 1961 capital budget with construction to begin in 1963. Through the intervention of Councilman John M. McDevitt, City Council nevertheless allocated funds for the proposed branch library from the 1958 capital budget. Construction began in August, 1960.
The Lawncrest Branch library opened its doors on September 18, 1961.The site chosen for the branch was city-owned land adjacent to the Lawncrest Recreation Center on Rising Sun Avenue at Comly Street.
The library was renovated in 2000 as part of the "Changing Lives" campaign, which refurbished branches and brought Internet service to every library.
On June 10, 2017 a mural honoring fallen firefighter Lt. Joyce Craig was unveiled on the exterior library wall. The lead artist for the project was Nathaniel Lee, a Philadelphia-based muralist who had been with Mural Arts since 2007. The City of Philadelphia Memorial Ceremony listing reads “For eleven years Lieutenant Joyce Craig served as a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department with valor and distinction. She graduated from the Philadelphia Fire Academy, with Cadet Class 178 in March 2004. During her career, Lt. Craig served with Engine 9, Engine 45, Ladder 21 and Engine 64 and will always be remembers as a “firefighter’s firefighter.” In her service to the community, Lt. Craig continually demonstrated her duty bound commitment to the saving of lives and the preservation of property. Regrettably, on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, Lt. Joyce Craig was killed in the line of duty.” At the time of her death Joyce lived in Lawncrest and served as a firefighter at Engine 64. https://publicartarchive.org/art/Tribute-to-Lt-Joyce-Craig/fbecaeb0