Plate 19: Library and Surgeons Hall, in Fifth Street
View in 2000
Founded by Benjamin Franklin and his friends in 1731, the Library Company of Philadelphia is the oldest subscription library in the country. Library Hall, home of the Company between 1790 and 1880, was built 1789-90 from designs of Dr. William Thornton, a physician who had no architectural training. Thornton later designed part of the central facade of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Lazzarini's full length Carrara marble statue of Franklin was given by the wealthy Senator William Bingham in 1792 (see commentary Plate 18), and placed in the niche over the front door of the Library. It now stands in a front window of the Library Company's home on Locust Street. In clearing the site for the ten-story Drexel Building in 1884 Library Hall was demolished. The Drexel Building was razed in 1956 to clear the site for the National Park. In the background is Surgeons' Hall, lit by the lantern on the roof. The building was used by the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, 1792-1807.
The Fifth Street elevation of the Library of the American Philosophical Society, built in 1959, is a faithful reconstruction, in the same location, of the facade of Library Hall, including a replica of the (1999 photograph) statue of Franklin over the entrance. The home of the Society is Philosophical Hall on the opposite side of Fifth Street in Independence square. In creating Independence National Historical Park, the three blocks east of Independence Hall were cleared of all but historic buildings with the exception of the Customs House at Second and Chestnut Streets. The Park now includes about forty buildings on forty-five acres of land. On December 26, 1799, twelve days after Washington's death, a memorial procession and service was held in Philadelphia, then the capital city (see commentary, Plate 11). On December 18,1999 there was a two hundredth anniversary reenactment of that procession, and like the original, it included the riderless horse and empty draped bier, which are seen in the 2000 photograph passing in front of the library of the American Philosophical Society. The First City Troop participated along with other organizations and a service was held at Christ Church (Plate 15) on Second Street north of Market.