Stapleton Branch, NYPL, Staten Island

132 Canal Street;
re & Hastings, 1907;
renovation: Andrew Berman,; 2010-13|

The Classical Revival design of the original Stapleton Branch is nearly identical to the Port Richmond Branch, which opened two years before. Like Port Richmond, it is also situated across from a public park. However, a 2013 rear addition introduced another phase to the building’s story and physical footprint, setting it apart from its brother in Port Richmond. The addition reoriented the library, decommissioning the original entrance on Canal Street in favor of a new entrance via the addition on Wright Street. The addition, which is not visible when viewing the 1907 building from the front, consists of wood structural posts with applied glazing, as well as a wood roof deck. The addition more than doubled the size of the branch.

Port Richmond Branch, NYPL, Staten Island

75 Bennett Street;
re & Hastings,1904-05;

The first libraries on Staten Island were found within institutions and public schools as early as the 1830s, as a result of the influence of New England settlers. Prior to the establishment of branch libraries on Staten Island, public reading rooms began to operate in the mid-19th century. With the Carnegie grant, the NYPL established four branches on Staten Island, enlisting the help of residents to determine the best locations for each. The sites were chosen based on the borough’s concentrations of population and geographic diversity. Port Richmond has been a major port and commercial center on Staten Island since the early 19th century, and this library, situated across from a public park, has been an important civic structure since its completion. Its Classical Revival style façades feature a prominent, projecting central entrance bay with a grand, columned portico. The Port Richmond branch was designated a New York City Individual Landmark in 1998.

Morrisania Branch, NYPL, The Bronx

610 East 169th Street;
Babb, Cook & Willard, 1908;

Originally the McKinley Square Branch, the Morrisania community advocated strongly for a Carnegie library in their neighborhood, with over 1,500 petition signatures sent to the NYPL’s site committee. Their successful effort resulted in the construction of this freestanding, Classical Revival style building. The T-shaped building’s main façade is flanked by lower, recessed, two-story wings. Its design features include arched windows and a projecting stone portico entrance, above which is a large, carved stone seal of the City of New York. The Morrisania Branch was designated a New York City Individual Landmark in 1998.

Hunts Point Branch, NYPL, The Bronx

877 Southern Boulevard;
Carrère & Hastings, 1929;

The Hunts Point Branch bears the distinction of being the very last of the Carnegie-funded NYPL branches to be built, and was among the 14 Carnegie-funded branches to be designed by Carrère & Hastings. The two-story, palazzo-inspired structure was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style with a blind arcade at the base and arched windows throughout. Its brick façades are accented with ornate terra-cotta details and stone trim. At the time of its construction, automobiles had become a common mode of transportation, so the facility also includes a one-story garage on its west side. The garage housed the Bronx Book Wagon, which served the community from 1928 (a year before the library opened) until the 1980s. Hunts Point was designated a New York City Individual Landmark in 2009.

Mott Haven Branch, NYPL, The Bronx

321 East 140th Street;
Babb, Cook & Willard, 1905;

The Mott Haven Branch was the first NYPL building to be constructed in The Bronx. The building’s strong, Classical Revival style design was the work of Babb, Cook & Willard, the same firm responsible for Andrew Carnegie’s own mansion on Fifth Avenue and East 91st Street. Its three-story, brick façades are marked by prominent limestone quoins at the corners and around the entrance. The building is within the Mott Haven Historic District, an oasis of historic architecture, a small-scale residential enclave surrounded by tall mid-century housing projects. The historic district was designated in 1967, making it one of the city’s first. The library is located in the Mott Haven Historic District and a National Register of Historic Places District.

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.

NYPL for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center and Claire Tow Theater, Manhattan

40 Lincoln Center Plaza;
Eero Saarinen and Gordon Bunshaft, 1965; renovation: Polshek Partnership, 1999-2001;

Claire Tow Theater: Hugh Hardy, 2012|

Both a research and circulating library, this formidable library is adjacent to the Metropolitan Opera House and shares a building with the Vivian Beaumont Theater. In fact, its stacks, which hold one of the largest collections of performing arts materials in the world, wrap around the theater flyspace and its public rooms are to the side and rear of the theater. Before the library was conceived as part of the plans for Lincoln Center, performing arts research materials were housed at the Main Branch and the circulating music collection was located at the 58th Street Library. The exterior of the glass and travertine building was the work of Eero Saarinen, while the interior was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. In 2001, a major reconfiguration of the 1960s design was undertaken, notably the consolidation of smaller reading rooms into one skylit reading room on the third floor and improved exhibition galleries, as well as rewiring the building for computers and internet access. In 2012, the two-story, 23,000-square-foot Claire Tow Theater was constructed on the building’s roof.

Jefferson Market Branch, NYPL, Manhattan

425 Sixth Avenue;
Frederick Clarke Withers of Vaux and Withers, 1874-77; renovation: Giorgio Cavaglieri, 1967;

In the 1830s, this small, triangular block became the heart of Greenwich Village when Jefferson Market was built here. In addition to the market, the block also had a small Police Court, prison and watchtower. In the 1870s and 80s, the block was renewed with a picturesque complex of buildings designed by the firm of Vaux and Withers, including the Third Judicial District Courthouse. This magnificent building, designed in the High Victorian Gothic style, is the only remnant of that complex. It features a rich, polychrome palette of materials with bandcourses, Gothic arches, stained glass windows, turrets, a large gable and variegated roof slates. The City seal is found on its Sixth Avenue façade. The crowning achievement is a prominent corner tower, whose top was designed as a fire lookout with an alarm bell and large clock faces to serve the community. When the building ceased to function as a courthouse in 1945, it briefly served as a Police Academy. The building was threatened with demolition in the late 1950s, but public outcry led to its conversion to a branch of the NYPL, one of the first adaptive reuse projects in the country. In 1996, after 135 years of silence, a campaign to reinstate the ringing of the fire bell was successful, and it has rung the hours from 9:00am to 10:00pm ever since.The library is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District, is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.

Yorkville Branch, NYPL, Manhattan

222 East 79th Street ;
James Brown Lord, 1902; renovation: Gwathmey Siegel & Associates 1986;


The very first of the Carnegie-funded branches of the NYPL, the Yorkville Branch officially opened in December of 1902. The three-story building has a limestone facade, divided into three bays with elegant arched windows on the main floor and Ionic columns on the second. At the turn of the century, Yorkville was a densely populated German immigrant neighborhood, and as such, the third floor of the original building housed only German language publications. At the end of World War I, Thomas Masaryk used the Yorkville library to conduct the research that led to his founding of the Czechoslovakian state. The library’s interior was renovated in the late 1980s with funds donated by the Rose family. Once again the place of a pioneering event, the renovation was the first time a branch library was overhauled using private resources. The current library occupies two floors within the original ornate Palladian-inspired façade. The building was designated a landmark in 1967, only two years after the enactment of the New York City Landmarks Law. The library is an New York City Individual Landmark and listed on the New York City and State National Register of Historic Places.

Main Branch, NYPL, Manhattan

Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street (Carrère & Hastings, 1901-11, master plan and restoration: Davis ;Brody Bond, 1980-2000; South Court addition: Davis Brody Bond, 2000-02; Children’s ;Center at 42nd Street: Gensler Architects, 2008);

The NYPL’s Main Branch is one of the city’s most important civic monuments and most impressive works of architecture. Along with Bryant Park, it is located on the site of the old Croton Distributing Reservoir, once the city’s main source of fresh water. The reservoir’s 50-foot high, 25-foot thick walls were demolished in the 1890s, just as plans were underway for a new central library. Some of the reservoir’s foundations can still be found in the library’s South Court. In 2000-02, a new wing was added to this part of the building and the architects intentionally exposed the foundation wall as a record of the site’s history. Situated on the eastern end of two city blocks, the library’s marble façades and lavish interiors are a masterpiece of the Beaux-Arts style. The firm of Carrère & Hastings, fairly unknown at the time, was chosen to design the building. Their success led to commissions for 14 Carnegie-funded branches across the city, more than any other firm.

The building’s front is set back from Fifth Avenue by a grand staircase and terrace that give the façade added grandeur and perspective. The terrace’s two famous lion statues were sculpted by Edward Clark Potter and were originally named “Leo Astor” and “Leo Lenox” after the library’s founders. During the Great Depression, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia nicknamed them “Patience” and “Fortitude.” The main entrance is housed within a triple-arched portico supported by coupled Corinthian columns. The rear, or west façade, expresses and honors the function of the building. Its series of full-height, vertical rows of windows both represent and give light to the seven floors of book stacks within. The steel stacks once held 88 miles of books, which have since been moved offsite. However, the stacks also function as structural support for the building, providing a powerful symbolism to the building’s construction. On all four façades, pedimented pavilions lend visual interest and elegance. When it was completed in 1911, the library bore the distinction of being the largest marble structure in the United States. Formerly known as the Humanities and Social Sciences Library and the Center for Humanities, the building was renamed the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in 2008 to honor a major gift to the institution.

The library functions as a reference, rather than a circulating library, and, as such, includes magnificent interior reading rooms, including the Rose Main Reading Room. This grand space, with arched windows and a fresco ceiling, is one of the most revered interior public spaces in Manhattan. In the 1980s, the institution undertook a major restoration of many of the library’s interior spaces and added two levels of stacks beneath Bryant Park. At that time, the library collection had outgrown the building, necessitating the park’s excavation. In 2012, library officials announced the Central Library Plan, which would close two nearby circulating branches and consolidate their functions within the main building. This plan was met with widespread public opposition due in large part to its plan to demolish the stacks to make room for a circulating library. The plan was abandoned in 2014.The library is an New York City Individual and Interior Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark.