Posts Tagged ‘John J. Astor’

The story behind New York’s library lions

May 16, 2011

Twin male lions have been guarding the entrance of the New York Public Library’s majestic main branch since the Beaux Arts building opened at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in May 1911.

They were called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after two NYPL benefactors, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox.

With their fortunes, Astor and Lenox built public libraries, which by the 1890s were to become part of the city’s new free circulating library.

New Yorkers took to the two Leos instantly. But in the 1930s, the lions underwent a name change.

With the Depression taking its toll on the city, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia declared them to be “Patience” and “Fortitude.” He felt that these were the qualities city residents needed most to survive the horrible economic times.

[Above: Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street on Easter, 1913; G.G. Bain News Service]