Ottendorfer Library, NYPL, Manhattan

135 Second Avenue
William Schickel

In the 1840s, the East Village (then part of the Lower East Side) became known as “Kleindeutschland” (Little Germany) for its large population of German immigrants. This building was the first branch of the New York Free Circulating Library, donated by German-American philanthropists Anna and Oswald Ottendorfer. The Ottendorfer Library, along with the adjacent German Dispensary (later renamed the Stuyvesant Polyclinic), was intended to uplift the minds and bodies of the Ottendorfers’ fellow German-Americans. Half of the library’s initial 8,000 volumes were in German, and much of its staff spoke German. In addition to its historical significance to the city’s library system, the library, as well as the adjacent dispensary, is also architecturally magnificent. The buildings include Italian Renaissance Revival and Queen Anne-style details, with red brick, terra-cotta trim, arched windows and symbolic ornament: urns and books on the library and busts of famous physicians and scientists on the dispensary. The library is an New York City Individual and Interior Landmark, and listed on the New York City and State National Register of Historic Places.