FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
LPC DESIGNATES ICONIC INTERIOR SPACES OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, STEPHEN A. SCHWARZMAN BUILDING
Iconic Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room Designated as New York City Interior Landmark
(New York, NY)— The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission today unanimously voted to designate interior spaces of the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 476 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Designated spaces include the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room on the third floor. These interior spaces are New York City’s 120th Interior Landmark.
“The Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room are the most majestic interiors in New York City, even rivaling the interiors of Grand Central Terminal— another beloved New York City Landmark,” said Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “For more than a century, the reading room has been a primary destination for writers, scholars, researchers and visitors, and is a symbol for the pursuit of knowledge in New York City. We’re extremely excited to celebrate that these premier public spaces are officially under the protection of the Commission, and commend the New York Public Library’s fine stewardship of these iconic rooms .”
"The New York Public Library applauds today's vote to officially designate the Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room as New York City interior landmarks," said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. "For over a century, we have been proud, dedicated stewards of these architectural and civic treasures, and will continue to preserve and protect them with the respect and care that they require and deserve. We thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission for partnering with us in our mission to ensure that these beautiful, unique rooms inspire visitors now and for generations to come."
“These interiors are not just some of the most beautiful in the City, but in the country as well,” said Peg Breen, president of The New York Landmarks Conservancy. “We’re delighted that the Commission has designated them and appreciate that the Library recognizes the need to preserve them well into the future.”
The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Central Building of the New York Public Library (now the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) in 1967, and its primary circulation spaces, including Astor Hall, the Central stairs and McGraw Rotunda were New York City’s first interior landmark in 1974.
The general plan for the building, including the placement of the Main Reading Room on the third floor atop the library stacks and elevated above the city streets, was conceived as a simple sketch by John Shaw Billings, the library’s first director. An architectural competition for the design of the building was held in 1897 and won by Carrere & Hastings Architects, who realized Billing’s vision with their elegant Beaux Arts plan. The New York Public Library opened in May 1911, and the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog room are considered the library’s principal public research and work spaces, central to the public and civic role of the institution.
Both the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Catalog Room have 52-foot tall ceilings and large arched windows that fill the rooms with natural light. The Catalog Room is 81 feet long and 77 feet wide, and the nearly two-block long and the Main Reading Room is 297 feet long and 78 feet wide. Of particular note are the molded plaster ceilings, which frame colorful murals of illuminated clouds, originally painted by James Wall Fine, and which were recently restored.
Significant features of both spaces include the molded plaster ceilings, arched windows, imitation Caen-stone walls, quarry tile and marble floors, and wood and bronze finishes. Both spaces contain important fixed furnishings, including doors and surrounds, Renaissance-style tables and desks, bronze chandeliers, and the bookcases and bronze-railed balconies lining the walls beneath the windows. Elegant woodwork exists throughout both rooms, including desk pedestals, the delivery desk, and entrance portals.Both rooms recently underwent a major ceiling restoration project, reopening to the public in the fall of 2016.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 36,000 buildings and sites, including 1397 individual landmarks, 120 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, and 141 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. Under the City’s landmarks law, considered among the most powerful in the nation, the Commission must be comprised of at least three architects, a historian, a realtor, a planner or landscape architect, as well as a representative of each borough.