Posts Tagged ‘Patience and Fortitude’

Snow lions flank the New York Public Library

January 11, 2016

In December 1948, a blizzard (remember those?) covered New York in almost 20 inches of white powder. An army of more than 18,000 men shoveled and plowed the snow as it fell all night.

They must have done a good job, because incredibly, city schools were all open the next morning.


But they didn’t clear away the snow from the two library lions, Patience and Fortitude, who have been guarding the main entrance of the New York Public Library since 1911.

They look lovely blanketed in snow.

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]

The lions adorning city buildings

October 6, 2010

Patience and Fortitude, the marble lions standing guard outside the New York Public Library main branch, are probably the best known.

But images of the king of the jungle adorn lots of New York buildings. The one above comes from 675 Sixth Avenue. Now a Trader Joe’s, this stately Ladies Mile structure once housed a Barnes & Noble and was originally home base of the Adams Dry Goods company.

Lions symbolize strength, courage, and power—the latter especially worshipped in New York City.

At left and right, two lions, from Union Square and East 26th Street, carry garlands between their teeth. 

The lion at left with the ring in its jaw is carved into the facade of the Alhambra Ballroom building in Harlem. Opened in 1926, this dance hall hosted Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton, and a waitress named Billie Holiday.