Free Library: Walnut Street West

Walnut Street West Branch of Free LIbrary

WHAT: The Walnut Street West Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia is located at the corner of 40th and Walnut streets.

HOURS OF OPERATION: The library is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m., on Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Sundays and Mondays.

NUMBER FIVE: The Free Library of Philadelphia was first chartered in 1891, and opened in March of 1894. The Walnut Street West Branch opened its doors on May 28, 1895, making it the fifth Philadelphia Public Library branch in the city. It became a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 1896.

ORIGINAL SPOT: The Walnut Street West Branch wasn’t always located at the bustling corner where it now stands. Originally, it was housed in three rooms on the first floor of the West Philadelphia Institute at 40th and Ludlow streets. On May of 1901, the library, then known simply as the West Philadelphia branch, moved to the Hamilton School Building at 4105-09 Chestnut St. The current building opened to the public on June 26, 1906. From 1998 to 2004, the library was housed across the street while the building underwent massive renovations that added a second level and incorporated environmentally-friendly materials and technology into the design.

CURRENT SITE: The building was constructed in 1904-1905 on land donated by the family of West Philadelphia banker Clarence Clark. It was designed by two graduates of Penn’s architecture program—Clarence Clark Zantzinger, class of 1895, and Charles L. Borie, class of 1892. It was also the first of 30 libraries funded by a grant from businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

STORY TIME: The branch serves the University City and Spruce Hill communities with all of the amenities a modern library has to offer—free wireless, an extensive children’s section of books, DVDs and videos, as well as self-serve printer and computer stations. The branch also offers a full slate of reading hours for the little ones, including “Tales for Little Tykes” on Thursdays at 11 a.m.; “Sleepy Saturday Storytimes” on Saturdays at 11 a.m.; and “Magic Circle” on Saturdays at 2 p.m. A children’s chess club meets on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., and teens can gather on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. to play with the library’s PS2 and Nintendo Wii systems at “Gaming Fridays.”

ODDS AND ENDS: On Thursdays at 3:30 p.m., the branch offers the LEAP After-School Program. No registration is necessary. Adult Scrabble fiends can participate in a competition every Monday night at 6 p.m., and bibliophiles can peruse the Friends’ Sidewalk Book Sale on Fridays at 12.30 p.m.

MORE INFO: For more information, visit the Free Library’s website: To contact the Walnut Street West Branch directly, call 215-685-7671.

Originally published on October 29, 2009