Image by Glynnis Ritchie via flickr
For many book lovers, there is nothing more exciting than the idea of a home library. What most of the city’s book lovers don’t know is that until recently, there was an affordable way to fulfill the dream of a home library—at least for book lovers who also happened to be handy with tools.
In the early to mid twentieth century, the majority of the city’s libraries had live-in superintendents. Like the superintendents who still live in many of the city’s residential buildings, these caretakers both worked and lived in the buildings for which they were responsible. This meant that for decades, behind the stacks, meals were cooked, baths and showers were taken, and bedtime stories were read. And yes, families living in the city’s libraries typically did have access to the stacks at night—an added bonus if they happened to need a new bedtime book after hours.
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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.
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The New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room officially reopened to the public today at 10 AM. Early this morning, NYPL staff held a ribbon-cutting celebration for two adjacent spaces located on the third floor of the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue. Both rooms had been closed to the public for more than two years for repairs and restorations.
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, Mon, September 12, 2016
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.
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Though the famous marble lions that stand guard over the iconic Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street aren’t talking, the patience and fortitude of scholars and professors all over the tri-state area may have played some role in the shelving of a $300 million renovation plan for the New York Public Library’s flagship location.
In the midst of three lawsuits and regular protests on the library steps, the library reversed course on revamping the midtown Manhattan building (which celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2011) and moving 1.5 million books to New Jersey, a move that brought a sigh of relief to researchers worried about delays in gaining access to essential publications.
What shelved this $300 million renovation?