Schomburg Collection for Research in Black Culture, NYPL, Manhattan
103 West 135th Street: Charles F. McKim and William Kendall, McKim, Mead & White, 1904-05 – NYC IL
104 West 136th Street: Louis Allen Abramson, 1941-42;
515 Malcolm X Boulevard: Bond Ryder & Associates, 1969-80, renovation: Dattner Architects, 2007
Originally the West 135th Street Branch of the NYPL, this library grew exponentially over the 20th century to encompass a complex of buildings housing the prestigious Schomburg Collection for Research in Black Culture. The original building was one of 11 Carnegie-funded branches designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White. All that remains of the building, which was designed in the firm’s characteristic Italian Renaissance Revival style, is its West 135th Street façade. During the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, the library became an important center for black cultural events and scholarship. This was due to the pioneering work of Branch Librarian Ernestine Rose, who began compiling a collection of black literature and history books beginning in the 1920s. As a result of this growing and influential collection, the library was renamed the 135th Street Branch Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints in 1925, and the following year, the NYPL increased it with the acquisition of historian, writer, and activist Arturo Alfonso Schomburg’s famous private collection. With its continued expansion, a new wing was added to the rear of the building on West 136th Street in 1941. With this addition, the library, which had doubled in size, was renamed the Countee Cullen Branch. In 1972 the collection was renamed the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 1980, a new building was constructed at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard. The complex now represents three distinct eras for this venerable institution. 103 West 135th Street is a New York City Individual Landmark.