Introverted Buildings in Philadelphia
Free Library, Frankford Branch, Frankford Avenue and Overington Street
I’m the only person who isn’t still crying over the loss of the Carnegie library that this replaced. As much as I recognize that loss and would be the first one to protest demolishing a Carnegie today, I love the Frankford branch.
Is it the system of panels wrapping around the corner? Or is it the modern linear metallic refinement playing off of the industrial-age “El.” This branch comes across gem-like, no matter whats going on all around it. (Maybe because of the contrast with whats going on?)
Reminds me how public libraries occasionally do take a stand and set the tone. Anyone remember the now-boarded-up Mercantile Branch (see a view at Selected Finds“) on Chestnut west of 10th Street? All glass, steel and split level, with light reaching all the way into the core from north and south. And the fact that they are truly public – doors open – welcoming all, makes their brightness more than just light.
“Brightness” is a huge part of the allure. There was a certain (gem-like!) clarity to mid-twentieth century design, no matter how ‘lowbrow’ some of it is considered now.
How many times in my youth did I walk past the Frankford Library and peek in at the people sitting and reading newspapers and magazines in the “lounge-type” area in front. Of course, as an student at the nearby elementary school we took many a class walk to this branch, climbing the open steps and filing quietly to the childrens’ section in the back. Also, Santa had his workshop there along Overington Street every December….
Where is Andrew Carnegie when we need him today to help fund the libraries being starved of city funds?
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