Thursday, December 30, 2010

The New York Public Library, Manhattan

The New York Public Library faces 5th Ave. between 40th and 42nd Sts. with Bryant Park in its backyard. It is a massive Beaux-Arts marble edifice, designed by Carrère & Hastings, the largest marble building in the U.S. at the time it was completed in 1911. The glorious Main Reading Room is 78 ft wide, 297 ft long under 52 ft high painted ceilings, with grand chandeliers throughout. It is one of the World's great interior spaces.

The library has Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Declaration of Independence written in his own hand.

It is fascinating to consider that the previous structure was the Old Croton Reservoir (1842) done in an interesting Egyptian design (see figure) comprised of massive sloped walls of granite and gneiss, by architect James Renwick, Jr. By 1900, the reservoir was dismantled by virtue of the delivery of water through underground mains. According to The New York Times (1/23/11), there are still some fragments of the reservoir's foundation within the library.

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