Did you know that NYPL’s Rose Reading Room is not a designated NYC landmark?
While New York has 117 designated interior landmarks, the Rose Reading Room is not one of them.
Completed in 1911, the 42nd Street Library designed by Carrère and Hastings is one of New York’s most splendid civic monuments. As the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1967 designation report noted, “This building comes closer than any other in America to the complete realization of Beaux-Arts design at its best. It somehow managed to keep that light airy quality, so often seen only in architectural drawings, so rarely achieved in execution.”
But the 1967 individual landmark designation only covers the exterior of the building. While the exceedingly fine marble exterior with its deep, triumphal arch portico boasts one of the finest facades along Fifth Avenue, for library patrons, its greatest splendors await inside. In 1974, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Astor Hall, the Main Staircase, and the McGraw Rotunda interior landmarks, the very first interior spaces to receive protection under the revised landmarks law.
Occupying nearly half an acre and (until recently) resting atop a mountain of books, the Rose Reading Room stands as the crown jewel of the New York Public Library. Here New Yorkers of all walks of life sit huddled together, lost in the pursuit of knowledge. As Paul LeClerc, former NYPL president once remarked, ”its essence is the most pluralistic, democratic access imaginable. The only criterion one needs to get in is curiosity.”
Although the NYPL administration insists they are responsible stewards of the 42nd Street Library, only landmark designation offers safeguards against insensitive alterations and additions. In 2013, preservationists requested interior designation for the remaining public rooms in the 42nd Street Library. For whatever reason, the Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to calendar these rooms for interior landmark consideration.
Now that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has a new Chair and four new Commissioners, LPC should move to ensure these sumptuously decorated rooms are given the landmark status they clearly deserve.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the passage of New York City’s landmarks law, NYPL should formally request interior landmark designation for all the public rooms in the 42nd Street Library, including the Rose Reading Room, Bill Blass Catalog Room, Gottesman Exhibition Hall, DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room, Celeste Bartos Forum, and other important rooms in the New York Public Library’s 42nd Street building.