• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

Renovated Philbrick Hall adds space, amenities for Parkway Central

After nine months of construction the Free Library's Philbrick Popular Library reopened in March as Philbrick Hall. I dropped by recently and found the rejuvenated popular reading room filled with life, modern amenities, and bathed in natural light.

The renovation of Parkway Central's Philbrick library, designed by Moshe Safdie Associates, highlights the historic building’s features but adds contemporary touches. The original terrazzo floors are visible once again after old carpet was removed, and the ceiling’s beautiful decorative plasterwork was restored. The seating and shelving are contemporary, looking more Apple Store (as one librarian whispered to me) than stuffy library. The room's new energy-efficient lighting was designed based on original fixtures upstairs.

Post-renovation Philbrick Hall has more publicly accessible space - notably the mezzanine level shelves - new computer stations, and nooks for reading next to the huge windows. One of the biggest additions is the 1000-square foot Teen Center, which features dedicated work spaces, computers, and a lounge for teenage library users.

If you're wondering how the financially-squeezed Free Library paid for all of this, it didn't come from their city budget. The renovation project was financed through a grant from the Annenberg Foundation.

Have you visited to browse? What do you think of the renovations? Does the popular library work better than before?

About the author

Ashley Hahn, Contributor

Ashley Hahn is an independent writer with a background in historic preservation and city planning. She started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from 2015-2017. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She is a Philadelphian by choice.

Contact Ashley via email or find her on twitter: @ashleyjhahn.


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