The Helen Kate Furness Free Library was founded in October 1902 by a group of Nether Providence citizens as the Horace Howard Furness Free Library, named in honor of one of the founders, a renowned Shakespearean scholar whose estate, Lindenshade, was located in what is now Furness Park.
In the early years, the library was housed in a room of the newly built Wallingford elementary school.
Dr. Furness' died in 1912, bequeathing $5,000 to the library on the condition that the Library's name be changed to The Helen Kate Furness Free Library to honor Dr. Furness' wife who was also a Shakespearean scholar.
In 1913, Dr. William Henry Furness III, a son of Dr. and Mrs. Furness, conveyed to the library an acre of land on which a native stone building was constructed in 1916.
In the early years, the library was only open in the evenings, staffed by volunteers and a part-time librarian. In fact, for several years during the late 1940's, the Nether Providence School District rented the library during the day for use as a kindergarten classroom. The proceeds from the lease were the library's only source of income. As late as 1954, the library was only open 8 hours a week.
By 1959, the population of the area had increased from fewer than 2,000 in 1916 to more than 10,000. The citizens of Nether Providence and Rose Valley initiated a capital campaign which raised approximately $65,000 to build an addition to the original building. In today's dollars, the proceeds from that campaign would be worth about $375,000.
A second addition, the Chadwick Wing, was added in 1974 with a gift from the estate of Judge E. Wallace Chadwick of Rose Valley, who died in 1969. A bequest from the estate of Mr. Chadwick's wife, Alice Chadwick, provided additional funding to furnish the wing.
In 2000, a committee was formed to plan a second story expansion of the Library. A successful capital campaign was conducted and, in October of 2006, the project was completed.