Posts Tagged ‘New York Public Library’

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]

Manhole covers that have something to say

April 7, 2010

You walk and ride over them constantly—but have you ever stopped to read the inscriptions on city manhole covers? Some are pretty unique.

Like this one that reads “Croton Aqueduct DPT 1862.” It’s in Jefferson Park on First Avenue and 112th Street and refers to the engineering marvel that brought fresh water from upstate to Manhattan.

The water was stored in a massive reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, where the New York Public Library is today.

This next cover is a bit of a mystery. It seems to read “Sewer B of B” for borough of Brooklyn or borough of the Bronx. Except I found it in Harlem near 125th Street.

Another personalized manhole cover is in West Chelsea, marking the lovely General Theological Seminary on Tenth Avenue.

A 1940s view outside the Public Library

March 15, 2010

This postcard was mailed in 1943. But a typical day at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street doesn’t look much different in 2010.

Here’s a look at what occupied this corner before 1911, when the building opened.

Christmas at a Village settlement house

December 18, 2009

That’s quite a festive Christmas tree these Greenwich Village kids are posing in front of. They’re celebrating the holiday at the Greenwich Settlement House, which still stands on Barrow Street today. 

The photo, from the New York Public Library, is undated. Looks like it’s from the early 1900s, when settlement houses popped up in lots of poor New York neighborhoods.

They were funded by wealthy residents to help “settle” new immigrants by providing health care, job training, and art classes.

They taught their little charges well. A New York Times article from December 1914 reports that the kids from the Greenwich Settlement House would be singing carols in hospitals on Christmas Day:

“In addition, the children are rehearsing a play to be produced at the settlement house on Tuesday,” the article states. “After the play, each little girl and boy will receive a big bag of candy and an orange. Many of the children have decided to give their candy to the sick folk for whom they are to sing.”

The architect who helped design New York

January 2, 2009

The Frick Museum, Grand Army Plaza, the Forbes building—these are just some of the iconic structures credited to gilded age architectural firm Carrere and Hastings.

carrereportrait

 In 1911, just two months before the opening of the firm’s biggest gig yet—the New York Public Library Building on 42nd Street—architect John Mervin Carrere (pictured at left) was killed in a Manhattan taxi accident.

The day after his funeral, his body lay in state in the rotunda of the almost-finished library, a tribute to a man who helped create and shape the look of 20th century New York City.


 

 

 

carrerestaircase

In 1916, the city dedicated this commemorative staircase in Riverside Park at 99th Street to Carrere. It’s not in the best condition, and the plaque bearing his name is quite modest for someone whose aesthetic vision is stamped all over the city to this day.

carrereplaque