In this issue:


Banner Image: A Splendid Celebration, Athenaeum 200th Anniversary Gala, April 24, 2014. Photo by Jim Carroll.

Membership    ∑    New Books        Event Calendar

Banner Image: A Splendid Celebration, Athenaeum 200th Anniversary Gala, April 24, 2014. Photo by Jim Carroll.

The Athenaeum will be closed on May 26th for Memorial Day.

May Events

Saturday, May 3, 1:30 PM - Gallery talk with Jena Osman featuring her book Useful Knowledge: A Genealogy of Shares. Free. RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 12:00-1:00PM - Exploring the Athenaeum: Tips of the Iceberg-Great Tall Case Clock.  Free.  RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Thursday, May 8, 5:30 PM - Literary Award for Art and Architecture: George H. Marcus and William Whitaker, The Houses of Louis KahnFree.  RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Friday, May 9, 2:30 PM - Society Hill-Hot and Healthy: ď365 Ways to Get a Good Nightís Sleep,Ē Ronald L. Kotler, M.D., D.A.B.S.M. Free. RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Tuesday, May 13, 11:00AM - Socrates Cafe Discussion Group.

Thursday, May 15, 5:30PM - Lecture and book Signing, Nathaniel Popkin, Lion and Leopard: A NovelFree for Athenaeum Members, All others $10.  Online paymentMembers RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Monday, May 19, 5:30PM - Literary Award: Adrian Raine, The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime. Free.  RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Wednesday, May 28, 2:00 PM - Athenaeum Genealogy Group.

Athenaeum Architectural Competition Announced 

Looking Forward: Re-Imagining the Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Yesterday, April 30th, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia opened registration for its first architectural competition in 175 years.  Looking forward to and through the 21st century and beyond we invite architects, designers, artists and students to submit designs for Re-Imagining the Athenaeum.  Cash prizes will be awarded for both professional and student designs and winning entries will be exhibited in the Athenaeumís final exhibition of its bicentennial year in December 2014.

Competitors for this project will be asked to design a building in the year 2050, on our current lot, after the John Notman building has been removed and rebuilt in another location.  Competitors will be tasked with re-imagining the Athenaeum as an institution apart from its National Historic Building.  Disclaimer! This is a concept-only project.  

A jury of internationally-recognized experts has been assembled, and awards will be presented at the Athenaeum on December 5, 2014.  For more information, see the competition website and download the full program.

Note: While Athenaeum staff & board members and their families are prohibited from entering the competition, Athenaeum members are free to submit.

Society Hill's 36th Annual Open House & Garden Tour

Join us for a delightful, self-guided tour of ten private homes and gardens in historic Society Hill. Architectural and interior styles range from18th & 19th century to the most contemporary.  All proceeds benefit Society Hill Civic Association.

Advance ticket purchase is encouraged. To purchase a ticket, or to get more information, please contact Society Hill Civic Association at 215-840-8801 or


Day of Tour ticket purchase: Old Pine Community Center, 401 Lombard Street, Phila. PA (Center City).

Sunday, May 18, 2014, 1 to 5 PM
Tickets: $30 per ticket in advance, $35 at the door
Group rates available
Complimentary light refreshments; rest rooms available
Comfortable shoes recommended

Member News

Lydia Denworth, daughter of Athenaeum board member Joanne Denworth, will be reading and speaking about her new book, I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language.  An acclaimed journalist, Denworth movingly recounts the diagnosis of her sonís hearing loss and her investigation of the brainís role in hearing and communication.

Barnes & Noble, Rittenhouse Square, 1805 Walnut St.

Wednesday, May 7, 7-8PM

This Month In 1814:  A Look Back At The Athenaeum's Founding Year

In May 1814, the directors of the Athenaeum contacted the Library Company concerning the possibility of renting rooms in Library Hall.  This did not come to fruition, but it was the first of multiple attempts to place the Library Company and the Athenaeum in the same building. 

In 1835/1836, at least two architects (William Strickland and Thomas Somerville Stewart) made plans for a unified library building which would have housed not only the Athenaeum and the Library Company, but also the Academy of Natural Sciences, Mercantile Library, Law Academy, and Foreign Language Library. This building would have been on the site of the Walnut Street Prison at 6th and Walnut Streets. 

In 1839/40, the Athenaeum board held a competition for the design of an Athenaeum building on a lot at the corner of 6th and Walnut Streets. When the competition had finished, they chose not to build any of the submitted designs. Following this decision, John Notman made two designs for a joint Athenaeum/Library Company building to replace Library Hall. 

In September 1845, as the Athenaeum stockholders were preparing to vote on whether to construct our current building at 6th and Adelphi (St. James) a writer in the North American advocated a plan to build a joint building. The Athenaeum had offered $35,000 to the Library Company the previous spring for the erection of a building that would house both institutions. The Library Company directors rejected the plan with no reason offered, though one Library Company member suggested that their policy of admitting females was incompatible with the Athenaeum's proposed "new dynasty, with the crowds of loungers and strangers that would be found in the rooms."

Above: Unified Library Building, Walnut Street Elevation by Thomas Somerville Stewart, c. 1836.


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First three Saturdays of the month: 11:00am-3:00pm (excluding July and August).



219 S. 6th Street

Philadelphia, PA  19106 


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Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. 


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