A landmark at last—the Rose Main Reading Room
The New York Public Library was founded in 1848 with a bequest by John Jacob Astor following his death. With the help of Gilded Age fortunes that were created in the second half of the 19th century, the library expanded to become what is now the second largest public library in the world (after the US Library of Congress in Washington, DC. In fact, the official charter of the library gives a clue as to the importance of the Gilded Age fortunes, naming it the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations. And further proof of its Gilded Age roots came in the form of a significant donation of funds from Andrew Carnegie in 1901 to enable the city to build 57 branch libraries throughout the growing city to be managed by the NYPL.
The grand structure at Bryant Park in Manhattan the NYPL is most known for today was on the site of a former reservoir. The well-known firm Carrere and Hastings was selected to design and construct the main branch, who chose a Beaux-Arts style. The foundation stone was laid in 1902 and it officially opened to the public in 1911 and was at the time the largest marble building in the United States.
The main branch building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, but as was common in the relatively young tradition of historic preservation in the United States, the interior was not protected. Plans to renovate and enlarge the library in the 2000s led to significant controversy because of the potential effect on the building’s historic interior, but these concerns were ameliorated with a revised design that placed expanded space underground under Bryant Park.
Following the recent (completed in 2016) renovations and restoration of the elegant Rose Main Reading Room, the room was recently designated a New York City Landmark. (Photo is by worldtravelimages.net)
By Amy Plitt and Tanay Warerkar
Curbed New York
August 8, 2017