Van Pelt Library

Van Pelt LIbrary opening

Photo credit: University Archives

It’s almost impossible to imagine Penn, or at least College Green, without the Van Pelt Library.

But it was actually just 45 years ago, on Oct. 22, 1962, that Penn officials celebrated the opening of a building that is now a campus landmark. The library was built with the help of a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and gifts from several donors, most notably Dr. and Mrs. David Van Pelt. The library’s opening was a significant moment for the University, which had long been short on library space, and was marked by the ringing of the Academy Bell (pictured), which dated to Penn’s original downtown campus and once served as a fire alarm. In his remarks that day, University President Gaylord P. Harwell said: “For fifty years the University has needed a new library. The old library, built to serve the needs of a university of fewer than two thousand students and geared to the needs of a gracious but more leisurely Victorian age, was found within twenty years of its construction to be unequal to the demands of 20th Century university life. We learned to live with it, albeit during the past few decades, rather unhappily.”

For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at

Originally published on October 4, 2007