Today, the Chestnut Hill Library, a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, is housed in a “Carnegie Library” designed by Cope and Stewardson in a Georgian Revival style. The Carnegie building features a vestibule with a stone portico, Doric columns, and large arched windows flanking the entrance.
Christian Hall Library (The beginning)
Chestnut Hill has maintained a library since 1870 when philanthropist Henry Williams retired here from Boston. To serve the schools and the community, Williams built the Christian Hall Library in 1872 at 8711 Germantown Avenue. Williams named the library Christian Hall because he did not wish anything to go on in the two-story building and subsequent annex that would be inconsistent with the word "Christian." Singing, elocution classes, magic lantern shows, art lectures, church fairs and temperance meetings were permitted.
At first the library was only a reading room, and books were issued only to subscribers. The upstairs was used by the YMCA and area churches for fairs and lectures. A frame building behind the library was the headquarters of the Workingman’s Club. It was equipped as a reading room and billiard hall.
After 1876, Mr. Williams was persuaded to allow anyone to take books without charge. In 1897, the trustees of the Christian Hall Library decided that the library would be of greater benefit to the community as a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and so they granted the grounds to the city.
The Garden at the Chestnut Hill Free Library is supported and maintained by the Chestnut Hill Library Friends. To learn more about the Friends organization and the work they do – ask a librarian or click on the link below.
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