Philadelphia City Hall Flood Closes Law Library

Philadelphia City Hall Flood
Closes Law Library

A burst valve on an air-conditioning unit sent a cascade of water into the law library, city council chambers, and the mayor’s reception room in Philadelphia’s historic City Hall, the largest municipal building in the United States. The leak was discovered early on the morning of April 1 by city workers who saw water coming out of the gold-leaf ceiling onto the furniture and marble floor in the council chambers. The damage has forced the city council to meet in temporary quarters, according to the April 2 Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Philadelphia Common Pleas and Municipal Court Law Library was relatively undamaged except for the librarian’s office, which was completely flooded. “All my personal files, 23 years of work, were totaled,” Law Librarian James M. Clark told American Libraries. “Anything made of paper is no longer with me.”

The law library remained open for a few days, but city officials ordered it closed April 5 for up to three weeks so that damage to the council offices on the floor below could be assessed. Clark told AL that the library would be able to accommodate most of its clientele from a secondary library in the Criminal Justice Center across the street.

The First Judicial Court renovated the library in 1999, restoring it to its approximate appearance when the Law Library Association took up residence in the building in 1898.

Posted April 8, 2002.