New York Public Library. Public Building in New York City, New York

New York Public Library

Public Building in New York City, New York

Grand Study Hall, New York Public Library Photo © Alex Proimos

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New York Public Library

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New York Public Library - New York
	Public Library
New York Public Library - New York Public Library. Photo by Agata & Andrew Mleczko
The New York Public Library is a system of public libraries in New York City. It has branches in the city’s boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island, and The Bronx. The main building is located in Midtown Manhattan and, looking somewhat like a stately palace, it is often considered to be one of the most impressive buildings in the city. The library contains almost 53 million items, making it the second-largest public library in the United States after the Library of Congress (Wikipedia Article) in Washington D.C.. It’s also the third-largest library in the entire world.

The library was established in the 19th century out of a number of separate libraries, including private libraries from bibliophiles and rich people. The project was helped financially by the wealthy Americans of the time.


The New York Public Library came into being in 1895 with the consolidation of the collections of the Astor Library, Lenox Library, and the Tilden Trust. The Astor Library was a reference library that was open to the public, created by the German merchant, John Jacob Astor. Astor was the very first millionaire in the U.S.. The Lenox Library housed the private collection of the wealthy philanthropist, James Lenox. Lastly, the Tilden Trust had been created in 1887 according to the will of Samuel J. Tilden, who dreamt of establishing a free public library in New York City.

NYC Public Library - New York Public
NYC Public Library - New York Public Library. Photo by Andrew E. Larsen

Dr. John Shaw Billings became the first director of the new public library and proposed a huge building with a large reading room and enough space to store several million books. After a competition was held, the architect firm Carrère and Hastings was awarded the new project. The location of the new structure was the site of the old Croton Distributing Reservoir (Wikipedia Article), a former part of the city’s water system. The first stone was laid in 1902 and nine years later, in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially opened with a ceremony that was attended by President Taft and 50,000 other people.

At the time of opening, the main building held more than a million books and was the largest marble structure in the United States. It became one of the largest libraries in the country and a vital part of American intellectual life. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

New York
	Public Library - New York Public Library
New York Public Library - New York Public Library. Photo by NHN_2009


The architect firm that was given the task of designing the building did so with confidence and skill. They created a magnificent Beaux-Art structure that has received praise ever since its opening. The cost was $9 million USD, which was quite a lot at the time, but the firm definitely delivered.

The building is made up of Dorset marble and consists of a beautiful façade with a large entrance and a staircase that leads to three arches. The entrance is guarded on both sides by two majestic lion statues, called Patience and Fortitude. Double Corinthian columns support a frieze that is decorated with six statues, representing history, drama; poetry, religion; romance, and philosophy.

Visiting the New York Public Library

The building is more than just world-class architecture though. Even despite its size, it works extremely well as a library. Everything’s fully automated and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to obtain any book requested.

New York Public Library - New York Public Library
New York Public Library - New York Public Library. Photo by yisris
The interior also consists of spectacular architecture. The vaulted marble Astor Hall is the main lobby and is no less than jaw-dropping. Another major highlight in the library is the Main Reading Room, which has a paneled ceiling with a series of wonderful chandeliers. The DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room is yet another highlight, decorated with murals depicting New York City landmarks. Most of the hallways in the library are also decorated with ceiling paintings.

The library’s diverse collections are worth browsing through and consist of music, books; magazines, movies; images, Braille books and so on. Some items in the collections are priceless; examples are the Gutenberg Bible and the manuscript by Thomas Jefferson that would later become the Declaration of Independence.

The main building – also known as the Schwarzman Building – is open from 10AM until 6PM on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; from 10AM until 8PM on Tuesday and Wednesday; and from 1PM until 5PM on Sunday.

How to Get There

The main building of the New York Public Library is located on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, right next to Bryant Park. A fun way to get there is by walking along 41st Street on the so-called Library Way. This walk consists of a series of plaques with quotes by famous authors and poets and extends for two blocks.

The nearest subway stations are 42nd St/Grand Central which is reached via the 4, 5, 6, 7, and S trains; and 42nd St/Bryant, which is reached via the B, D, F, and M trains.

Empire State
Empire State Building

Nearby Landmarks

Nearby New York City landmarks are Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Times Square, and the Empire State Building.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Dec 14, 2014


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