NYPL’s historic Rose Main Reading Room is officially an interior landmark!

Posted On Tue, August 8, 2017 By

Posted On Tue, August 8, 2017 By In Landmarks Preservation Commission, Midtown

In May, State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger drafted a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking them to designate the Rose Main Reading Room (one of the largest uncolumned interior spaces in the world) and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue as interior landmarks. Though the LPC has been criticized in the past for their backlog of potential landmarks, they quickly put the request on their schedule and just this morning voted unanimously in favor of the designations, which protect the spaces’ murals, decorative plasterwork, metal and woodwork, light fixtures, windows, doors, balconies, built-in bookcases, and decorative elements.

New York Public Library Rose Main Reading Room, NYPL restoration, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Rose Reading Room

New York Public Library Rose Main Reading Room, NYPL restoration, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Rose Reading Room

New York Public Library Rose Main Reading Room, NYPL restoration, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Rose Reading Room

At a public hearing last month, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said, “This is the most important case in my time as a commissioner and it is an honor to participate in this designation. It deserves all the protections.” In addition, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, and Municipal Art Society, all testified in favor of landmarking. Theodore Grunewald of the Committee to Save the NPYL, however, advocated for the designation to cover 11 rooms total, including the tubes, which he feels would prevent inappropriate redesigns or changes like the NYPL has done in the recent past (his group led the charge against Norman Foster’s previous plan to relocate the stacks). Similarly, Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City testified that the bookshelves should be included, and Patrick Waldo of HDC agreed that the designation should be broader. Nevertheless, the designations went through this morning without a hitch.

The Beaux-Arts building and its interiors were designed by Carrere & Hastings and opened in 1911 as the nation’s largest marble structure up to that time. Both publicly accessible study rooms were recently renovated in a two-year, $15 million restoration project that resulted from a 2014 incident where a plaster rosette fell more than 50 feet from the ceiling of the Reading Room. As 6sqft previously detailed, “In addition to recreating the fallen rosette, the library also reinforced the other 899 rose ornaments with steel cables, recreated the original 27′ x 33′ ceiling mural painted by James Wall Finn in the Catalog Room, and refurbished the rooms’ chandeliers, which included swapping out the existing light bulbs for LEDs.”

The two spaces will join the NYPL’s Astor Hall and grand staircases as interior landmarks (they were designated in 1974; the exterior of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building was landmarked in 1965), along with the city’s 117 other interior landmarks, which include the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the interior of the Ambassador Grill at One UN New York Hotel, both of which were designated in the past year.


All photos by Max Touhey Photography courtesy of the New York Public Library

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Neighborhoods : Midtown



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