The iconic main branch of the New York Public Library is the flagship building in the system and a prominent historic landmark in midtown Manhattan. It opened in 1911 and is one of four research libraries in the library system.
This beautiful beaux-arts style building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
The marble on the building is about 3 feet thick and is quarried from Vermont. The exterior consists of about 20,000 blocks and stretches some 390 feet along 5th avenue.
Two stone lions made of marble from Tennessee lie guarding the building on either side of the entrance stairway. They were sculpted by Edward Clark Potter and were named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox in honor of the library’s founders, but were later renamed “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor La Guardia in the 1930s because he thought those were the qualities that citizens needed to survive the Great Depression.
Patience is on the south side (left as you face the entrance), and Fortitude is on the north side.
The building was featured in many Hollywood movies including Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and Ghostbusters in 1984 which used the exterior and basement in a number of scenes.
Two cast bronze flagpole bases were sculpted by Raffaele Menconi and cast by Tiffany Studios. They exemplify the incredible attention to detail in the structure’s aesthetics.
The Library’s famous Rose Main Reading Room has a majestic 52 foot cathedral ceiling and spans 78 feet wide and 297 feet long. Sadly it was closed due to a crumbling ceiling when we visited! We had to look at a large photo of it and imagine what it was like. Hopefully, they can repair the damage and reopen soon.
The room is lined with thousands of reference works on open shelves along the floor level and balcony.
It is lit by massive windows and grand chandeliers and furnished with sturdy wooden tables with brass reading lamps.