I can’t imagine that most visitors to NYC are very different from me. I love to admire the buildings, and the older they are, the more I want to know more about New York City History. My favorite moments are those when I’m walking down the street, passing skyscraper after skyscraper, and then a random building appears, clearly from an earlier century! Then I’m SUPER intrigued! That’s exactly how I felt the first time I spied the NYC 5th Avenue Library!
New York City History: The 5th Avenue Library
I love the Murray Hill area of NYC. My husband and I typically stay in this neighborhood when we visit NYC. We are close to Grand Central Terminal, which I wrote about in this post, and also the Morgan Library, which I wrote about in this post. One day, as I walked down Park Avenue, I caught a glimpse of the 5th Avenue branch of the New York Public Library. I turned and walked up 41st street, and noticed the many brass plaques embedded in the sidewalk, leading up to the front of the Library. Each plaque represents an important literary work…kind of like the Hollywood Walk of Fame…but more…well, literary.
New York History Inside the Public Library
There’s so much New York History inside the Library, y’all! Here’s what I suggest. Take a TOUR of the Library. Yes, it’s a thing! The day I toured the group was so large they had to split us between two docents. The docent who led my group had been volunteering as a tour guide for over 30 years. She was adorable, and incredibly knowledgable! You can find tour times and days by clicking here. The tour lasts about an hour. Want a few teasers??
- The site chosen for the home of the new Public Library was the Croton Reservoir, a popular strolling place that occupied a two-block section of Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets.
- In 1902, this was the largest marble structure ever attempted in the United States.
- 5 miles of shelves were installed to house the immense collections. More than one million books were set in place for the official dedication of the Library on May 23, 1911.
- Between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors streamed through the building the first day it was open.
- During the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named the famous Lions at the entrance of the Library Patience and Fortitude, for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression.
The Rose Main Reading Room and Other Beautiful Spaces
The Rose Main Reading Room is landmarked due to its importance in New York City History. It’s simply gorgeous, and 100% worth visiting! The building is also home to the Library’s historic children’s materials, including the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh children’s classics.
In the Area
After you visit to the 5th Avenue New York Public Library, what else is there to do? I highly suggest walking around to the back of the library to enjoy Bryant Park. I follow Bryant Park on Instagram, and am amazed and delighted with all the programming going on there. In the Spring and Summer there’s something happening every day, from free Yoga classes and dance lessons, to movies on the lawn.
Of course in the Winter, one of NYC’s famous ice skating rinks is set up in Bryant Park, as well as a Christmas Village.
For Bibliophiles, the 5th Avenue New York Public Library is Nirvana! For history enthusiasts, a visit to this iconic building is an experience rich in New York City History! Be sure and visit their web site, as the Library also hosts many special literary and historical exhibits.
This experience is a page-turner y’all! (see what I did there)
You might get hungry after all this site-seeing, so be sure and check out my NYC Restaurant Guide! Over 30 restaurants and bars, personally curated by me, organized by Neighborhood throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn!