Exploring Architecture in the New York Public Library

If you’re an architecture fan and in New York City, then there will be amazing sights nearly everywhere you look; but for the best example of Beaux Arts architecture, for majestic white Vermont marble and Corinthian columns and powerful statues, there’s no where else to go than the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, at 42nd Street. There, you’ll discover not only the Vermont marble and columns, but, just as you climb the stairs on the Fifth Avenue entrance, you’ll see two of the most famous lion sculptures in the world, known as Fortitude and Patience (Fortitude is to the right; Patience is on the left), so named by past mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

The Fifth Avenue Branch of the New York Public Library is actually the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, one of a number of research libraries in the New York system. Inside, you’ll see Astor Hall, a room with grand staircases and high arched marble ceilings. On the third floor, in the Main Reading Rooms, you’ll find that the library is modernized and restored, simultaneously moving into the computer age and renewing its former glory.

For those who wish to remain connected to the world, even while spending time inside a building that was constructed in 1911, there’s free Wi-Fi service. A five million dollar restoration is transforming Room 117, which is considered a Beaux Arts masterpiece with facade, with an aim to be completed by the building’s centennial in 2011.

Unlike other great libraries, like the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., the New York Public Library was not created by the government, but rather a combination of city government working together with private philanthropists. Even in 2010, the research libraries are funded with private money, while the circulating or branch libraries are financed using city funds. It wasn’t until a few months ago, in the early part of 2010, that the operations of the branch and research portions merged together.

Not only will you find books and peace at the New York Public Library, but also exhibitions as well. For example, currently at the Mid-Manhattan Library, there’s an exhibit in the Art and Picture collection, running until July 14, 2010, titled, “Found New York.” Here, you’ll see color photographs by mixed media artist Linda Stillman. Her “Found New York” documents lost objects she discovers and then photographs on the New York City Streets, reflecting her interest in overlooked objects. If you’ve lost anything and have yet to find it, perhaps checking these photos may jog your memory.

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