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This photo of the NY Public Library was taken on 5th Ave, but the library covers two blocks from 40th Street to 42nd Street and is just east of Bryant Park. Read More

New York Public Library at 5th Ave. and 42nd Street
New York Public Library, 1925

In the mid 1880s, as New York was growing into one of the worlds largest cities, there still wasn't any public library that the city could call its own. That changed with the forsite of two wealthy families, John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) and James Lenox. Both had their own semi-public libraries, but as financial concerns began to increase for both families, new ideas materialized.

With the help of John Bigelow, a New York attorney, their assets were combined to build a new library on the grounds of 42nd Street and 5th Ave. John Shaw Billings was a librarian at the time who draw sketches for the new library and it was his drawings that led to the construction of the 42nd Street library. A competition among architectural firms developed using Billings blueprint sketch as a foundation. The firm of Carrère and Hastings was selected and the result was to build a large, majestic, Beaux-Arts style building. Before the construction of the new library could begin, the dismantling of the reservoir existing at that location (see Bryant Park) had to take place, resulting in two years of work by some 500 workers. Then in 1902, construction of the library began. Work on the structure took approximately five years to complete and another five years to complete the interior. The library was officially dedicated on May 11, 1911.

The New York Public Library is famous for its enormous selection of books, as well as its architecture and the famous concrete lions that 'guard' the entrance.

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