New York Public Library (NYPL) Main Branch: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
New York Public Library (NYPL) Main Branch: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building Review
In 2011 the "Library with the Lions" celebrated its centennial as a masterpiece of beaux arts design and one of the great research institutions in the world, with more than 6 million books, 12 million manuscripts, and 3 million pictures. The party ended in 2012 when the board of this National Historic Landmark approved a controversial $300 million plan to convert the 5th Avenue flagship into the world's largest combined research and circulating library—a plan that will create two floors of storage space under adjacent Bryant Park, create additional public space and computer terminals, and eventually fold two other Manhattan branches under its roof. The plan met with much debate, discussion, and a few lawsuits so the board and its design team are reevaluating options and revisiting the design. When and if construction commences on the project, the library will close for two years, so enjoy the beautiful architecture and peaceful escape from Midtown's bustle while you can—check the website for details. The marble staircase at the library's grand 5th Avenue entrance is an excellent perch for people-watching, before or after you explore the opulent interior.
The library's bronze front doors open into Astor Hall, which leads to several special exhibit galleries and, to the left, a stunning periodicals room with wall paintings of New York publishing houses. Ascend the sweeping double staircase to a second-floor balconied corridor overlooking the hall, with panels highlighting the library's development. Make sure to continue up to the magisterial Rose Main Reading Room —297 feet long (almost two full north–south city blocks), 78 feet wide, and just over 51 feet high; walk through to best appreciate the rows of oak tables and the extraordinary ceiling. Several additional third-floor galleries show rotating exhibits on print and photography (past exhibits have included old New York restaurant menus and a 1455 Gutenberg Bible). Free one-hour tours leave Monday–Saturday at 11 and 2, and Sunday at 2 from Astor Hall. Women's bathrooms are on the ground floor and third floor, and there's a men's bathroom on the third floor.
- Address: 5th Ave., between E. 40th and E. 42nd Sts., Midtown West, New York, NY, 10018 | Map It
- Phone: 212/930–0800
- Hours: Mon. and Thurs.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 1–5, Tues. and Wed. 10–8; exhibitions until 6
- Website: www.nypl.org
- Subway: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.; 7 to 5th Ave
- Location: Midtown West
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