After being closed for a two-year restoration, the New York Public Library’s historic Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room will reopen to the public ahead of schedule on Wednesday, October 5th at 10am.
The $12 million project, managed by Tishman Construction Corporation, came about in May 2014 when an ornamental plaster rosette fell 52 feet from the Reading Room’s ceiling. In addition to recreating and replacing this piece, all 900 rosettes in both rooms were reinforced with steel cables. Other work included the recreation of a 27′ x 33′ James Wall Finn mural on the ceiling of the Catalog Room and the restoration of the chandeliers. To mark the occasion, the NYPL has shared an incredible collection of photographs documenting the restoration work and the Rose Main Reading Room with nearly all scaffolding removed.
The mural before
The mural in the studio
Installation of the mural
EverGreene Architectural Arts were tasked with recreating the mural. Unlike those in the Reading Room, also by James Wall Finn, this one had not been restored in the 1990s, and therefore it was determined that its loss of original paint, discoloration, and patch jobs were irreparable.
Scaffolding and the missing rosette in the Reading Room via Jonathan Blanc / NYPL
While the work was going on in the Reading Room, the historic oak desks and their brass lamps, which are bolted to the floor, had to be covered. Aurora Lighting restored the chandeliers and added LED lights.
The Reading Room ceilings before via Jonathan Blanc / NYPL
The Reading Room ceilings after
Not only will the rooms be open for research and study, but there will be daily tours of the building including these two spaces at 11am and 2pm.
And while this work was going on, the Library was also busy moving materials into a new, $23 million state-of-the-art storage facility below Bryant Park. This project was conceived after controversy over a previous plan to move the research collection to New Jersey and will be complete by early 2017. The new space will hold 4.3 million research volumes, allowing the Library to “fill over 90 percent of research requests with materials located on-site.” To do this, they also installed a $2.6 million modern conveyor system that uses 24 individual cars to bring these materials up from storage to the Rose Main Reading Room.
The New York Public Library is celebrating the re-opening with a free exhibition of these and many more photographs at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. “Preserving a Masterpiece: From Soaring Ceilings to Subterranean Storage” will be on view until October 9th, and will also include historic photos from the construction of the building and its early years, as well as two decorative plaster rosettes from the Rose Main Reading Room ceiling.
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All photos of Rose Main Reading Room courtesy of Max Touhey Photography unless otherwise noted