Built on the site of the Croton Reservoir, the immense marble Beaux-Arts structure required a decade of preparation and construction. With room for exhibitions as well as a picture gallery, the New York Public Library was designed to meet a variety of educational needs. Strategically situated above seven floors of stacks, its main reading room provided researchers with requested materials as quickly as possible.
Upon his death in 1886, former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden (1814-86) left money in trust for the creation of a free public library and reading room in New York City. Nearly ten years later, the Tilden TrustExternal combined with two existing research institutions—the Lenox Library and the Astor Library—to form the New York Public Library. The Library also assumed management of both the New York Free Circulating Library and a new branch library system funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
“It can hardly be thought extravagant to say that no site better adapted for a structure of suitable proportions for a metropolitan library could be carved out of any part of the city than this of Bryant Park. It is on the highest ground between the Central Park and the Battery; it is, and will continue to be, central as long as any place in New York is ever likely to be central…”
“The Tilden Trust Library: What Shall It Be?”External By John Bigelow. Scribner’s Magazine. (September 1892) v.12, #3; pp287-300. The Making of AmericaExternal. Cornell University Library
- Visit the website of the New York Public LibraryExternal to learn more about the Library’s originsExternal. See the feature on the Library LionsExternal, “Patience” and “Fortitude.” Plan to visit the New York Public Library’s Digital CollectionsExternal.
- Pictures of the interior and exterior of the New York Public Library are available in the collection, Detroit Publishing Company.
- Read newspaper articles about the New York Public Library found in the collection of historic American newspapers, Chronicling America. Start with selected articles included in New York Public Library: Topics in Chronicling America.
- See the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic ViewsExternal which includes 12,000 photographs of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The views show buildings and street scenes in cities, towns, and villages as well as natural landscapes. They also depict agriculture, industry, transportation, homes, businesses, local celebrations, natural disasters, people, and costumes.
- View film footage of the NYPL. Panorama from Times Building, New York, available through the collection The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906, provides a glimpse of the Library in 1905. See also the film, RMA flag service on the steps of New York Public Library, 1919, [Kinogram Pub. Corp.], which has as its final scenes a flag ceremony sponsored by the (Theodore) Roosevelt Memorial Association on the steps of New York Public Library, October 25, 1919.
- From Congress.gov: View Congressional Record Issues celebrating THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY — HON. CAROLYN B. MALONEY (Extension of Remarks – May 19, 1995) Section of Record: Extension of Remarks.
- The Digital Collections contain numerous images of public libraries across the country. To explore this assemblage, search the collections of Photos & Prints on public library. To narrow your selection, add the name of a city or state, as in public library Norfolk.