“In the reading room in the New York Public Library
All sorts of souls were bent over silence reading the past,
Or the present, or maybe it was the future, patrons
Devoted to silence and the flowering of the imagination” ~ Richard Eberhart
I have been sorely remiss when it comes to talking about my favorite building in the city.
Perhaps it is because when most people come to the city they just want to see Bryant Park and nothing more. While this old dusty structure looks pretty cool from the outside and the notorious lions (nicknames Patience and Fortitude though originally named after the founders), call for a must have pic, many of my friends don’t want to venture in.
And like a true New Yorker, I nod and we move on, keeping this marble sanctum to myself, until occasionally a friend gets curious and Begs to go in, despite it being no hardship at all. Because this building is just that amazing!
For the New York Public Library is MY favorite sanctuary. A beautiful architectural phenomenon that despite being a landmark is a shrine for solitude and works of art.
Located on Fifth Ave, walking distance from Grand Central and with Bryant Park adjacent behind, it beckons to people to breach the doors and wander in from the hustle and bustle outside. Appearances can be deceiving, as people think library and automatically go to the outdated notion of checking out a book in a dusty old building. It has a varied history both fictional and real, for the elite and the common. It might best be known in fictional circles as having held the famous Sex and the City wedding that never was. Or to go and peruse and research and study, as a thousand tourists take your pics, which I have done a time or two. Or a hundred.
It is known for all of that, but so so SO much more. The NYPL, also called The Stephen A. Schwarzman building or the Main Branch is not just the flagship of the New York Pubic Library System, but it is an iconic New York City landmark. The compilation of the John Jacob Astor library and the John Lennox library at the financing of New York’s former governor Samuel J. Tilden who wanted to “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.” Brought together in a span of years completing hard work but most symbolically dreams, New York Public Library was created.
Built on what was essentially an abandoned reservoir, the Main Branch takes up two blocks, designed by Doctor John Shaw Billings a renowned librarian, as well as, at the time the obscure company of Carrère & Hastings it became the largest building to ever be constructed in marble.
There in lies its charm. The outside alone, reminds you of a European building centuries old and proud of it as it stands forged against the newness. While the bottom floor could be a home in ancient Rome with all of its white marble, statues and exquisitely detailed staircases that make you feel like a queen (or just Carrie Bradshaw) as you descend them. The second floor is done in dark reds, decorated with paintings that really belong in the Renaissance era. (which is perfect for this Renaissance girl!)
The second floor also boasts the coveted reading rooms that Billings had foreseen including the Rose Room which is as regal as it sounds. Many authors such as Norman Mailer, Nora Ephron, Colm Tóibín, and E.B. White have used the copious amount of resources as well as written novels there. Now updated, the room has computers to search the Library as well as outlets so you can bring your computer and spend the day there.
Studying and writing there truly feels like an alternate reality. Like I have stumbled into the Michelangelo Twighlight Zone. Each time I am there visiting or working, I have to pinch myself a little bit just to make sure it is real. While noise can bounce of the vaulted ceilings and hallowed walls, there is a true sense of quiet and peace. Despite the thousands of visitors daily, the reading rooms are truly a place of solace, to work, learn, and maybe, just maybe you can channel one of the the greats.
Not only can you tour the library, work and study there, peruse the countless books, but there are author signings, galas, various events and exhibits, and yes Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding are all held there.
While New York can be pretty dreary, especially in the winter, visiting the NYPL is the perfect way to put me in an amazing mood.
It really is one of the must sees of New York, and one of my favorite places…and it is right next to Bryant Park. You can not beat that!
Have you been to the New York Public Library? Did you get your picture taken with those lions?