homespacervirtual tourspacerVisitor Infospacernewsspacercollectionspacerhistoryspacergift shop

Law Library

glass floors
full view
original tables
columns detail
spiral staircase
Law Library
The Law Library Company of the City of Philadelphia was formed in 1802 and is the oldest organization of its kinds in America. In 1827, it merged with The Associated Members of the Bar. Together they became The Law Association. The Law Library in the new City Hall was justly suited for such a group.

Because this area wasn't determined until after John McArthur's death, this room and two adjoining rooms were designed by the architect, W. Bleddyn Powell and formally dedicated on March 30, 1898. Shortly before the Library was scheduled to be occupied, on December 12, 1897, the Evening Bulletin stated that ‘within a few days Philadelphia will have the most ornate and elegantly appointed quarters for a law library in America, and probably the world.’

The main room was described as being sixty-three by eighty feet with a magnificent thirty-foot ceiling. The original ceiling was elaborately frescoed and gilded with gold leaf.

In 1998, President Judge Alex Bonavitacola proposed a proper restoration of the library. After removing 11,000 bound volumes of Supreme Court briefs and other books and boxes of documents, the temporary suspended ceiling, old floor covering and unnecessary shelving were removed.

White paint was stripped from 873 glass-flooring panels to once again allow light to penetrate the stacks. With the removal of bookshelves, natural light could again enter the room through the three large arched windows.

The spiral staircase and ceramic tile on the walls were restored to their original elegance. The massive chandeliers were refurbished to reveal their astonishing beauty. Most of the original furniture was carefully refurbished.

Now that the room can remind us of its original appearance, it must still function as a modern day library. With careful attention to complement the existing details, a work area was created to accommodate twelve computers.

On January 11, 2001, the Law Library of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, was dedicated as the Alex Bonavitacola Law Library.

Back To: back to city hall back to interior