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.