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Fisher Fine Arts Library

Frank Furness (1888-90)


Originally built as the main library of the University of Pennsylvania’s new campus after it moved from Center City to West Philadelphia in the 1870s, the Fisher Fine Arts Library is one of Frank Furness’s masterpieces. The highly controversial exterior contains a rich juxtaposition of red brick trimmed with red sandstone and unusual terra cotta details.

The multistory reading room, lit by an overhead skylight, is one of the world’s great Victorian spaces. Venturi Scott Brown & Associates restored the building in 1986-91. You can read more about Furness and his tenure at Penn here.


The Fisher Fine Arts Library building is a must-see for any architecture aficionado and, luckily, the building is semi-open to the public, so you can see it from inside and out.

The library itself is open to visitors, but requires they sign in with a valid ID. Also located in the building are the Architectural Archives and the Arthur Ross Gallery, which are also open to the public, with varying hours.

Insider Tip

The Fisher Fine Arts Library’s beautiful main reading room had a shining role in the Oscar-winning film Philadelphia — it was the backdrop for the emotionally charged law library scene.

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