Thursday, February 4, 2016

Walking in New York City - Jefferson Market Library

On a recent walk in Greenwich Village I spotted this beautiful building just below 10th Street on Avenue of Americas:

On closer inspection I discovered, to my delight, that it was the Jefferson Market Library.

The front entrance
Which meant that I could take a look inside. I love exploring old buildings, but often it turns out that while the exterior has been maintained the interior has been modernized and lost the original charm. Fortunately, in this case, it turns out the inside is still just as grand as the outside. The building, originally opened in 1877 as a courthouse and considered one of the ten most beautiful buildings in America at the time, has housed a library for almost fifty years. 

Stairs up to the first floor

The first floor, which used to be the police court, is now occupied by the circulation desk and the Children's Room while the second floor civil court has been replaced by the Adult Reading Room. 

Adult Reading Room

Adult Reading Room

With its stained-glass windows and soaring stone-block walls, the solemnity  provides the perfect atmosphere for concentrated study or quiet contemplation.

 An iron spiral staircase leads into a brick-arched basement.

Once the holding area for prisoners, the space at the end of the hallway is now the Reference Room. 

It's hard to believe looking at the building today that it almost didn't survive. After 1945, due to redistricting, courts were no longer held there and it was put to other uses. But by 1959 it was empty and considered such an eyesore it was scheduled for demolition. However, Village community members campaigned to save it and in 1961 it was announced it would be preserved and turned into a library.  It took another six years before restoration was completed and the library finally opened in 1967. 

All in all, it's a beautiful library, well worth taking a look at if you are in the area, but there is one slight catch for anyone wanting to work or study there - there are no public restrooms!


  1. Beautiful! Great job tracking down its history.

    1. Thanks Jenni. I always think it's so sad to see old buildings being left to crumble into ruins or being demolished for reasons of greed, but especially so when they are virtually works of art. I'm glad this one managed to escape the wrecker's ball, though it sounds as if it was a close call.