Mississippi’s Connection to the New York Public Library

Before we get back to our regular programming next week, I thought I might catch up with a few interesting tidbits I’ve come across in my news reading over the holidays. If you’re a new reader, you might not catch this reference, but if you’ve been around for a while, you should. I was reading Ada Louise Huxtable’s piece “Undertaking Its Destruction” in the Wall Street Journal about the controversy over proposed changes to the New York Public Library (1911, Carriere & Hastings). This is the library with the lions in front of it seen in many movies set in NYC, including Day After Tomorrow, where the survivors of the environmental apocalypse take refuge from the tsunami and resort to burning books to stay warm :-(

New York Public Library stacks under construction, 1907. Courtesy NYPL

New York Public Library stacks under construction, 1907. Courtesy NYPL

Anyway, it seems that as part of the modernization plan, the library leadership plans to gut the stacks which run for seven stories below the reading room, actually forming part of the structural system (you can see a video tour here). Ada Louise, amongst others, is not happy about this, and in her piece she gives some of the history of the unique stack design:

The stacks are an engineering landmark, but they cannot be designated because they are not open to the public. Incredibly, the Rose Reading Room has not been designated either, although it is eligible. Landmark protection covers the building’s exterior and entrance and exhibition hall.

Bernard Green, who devised the system for the Library of Congress that was built a few years earlier than the New York Public Library, was hired as the engineering consultant for the New York stacks.

Bernard Green, photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Bernard Green, photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Did you catch it? If not, read the series “From the Archives: Critiquing the New Capitol Designs (1900)“, and you’ll see what got me so excited and how our State Capitol has a direct connection to the venerable New York Public Library.

According to a more recent New York Times story, this project is a done-deal, with the drawings unveiled before Christmas.

More reading:

A Tour of the Stacks” by New York Public Library

Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Libraries, Renovation Projects

8 replies

  1. What a spectacular way to begin the New Year! Not only is this a wonderful series of links and commentary, but this posting has made me aware that one of my heroes in the 60s and 70s, Ada Louise Huxtable, is still, in her early 90s, punching through our preconceptions and comfort zones. For that alone, my gratitude to you is unstinting.


  2. Great article! The Tour of the Stacks is fascinating, and I love the cross-section of the stacks image. Apparently, NYPL is a lot like the MDAH–give them your list and wait for them to bring it to you to read. :)


  3. Ada Louise Huxtable should be an inspiration to us all. Great article!


  4. And in an unhappy coincidence, the NYT announced her death today: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/arts/design/ada-louise-huxtable-architecture-critic-dies-at-91.html? Another loss for preservation, although not as close to home as Sam Kaye’s passing.


  5. My e-mail remains on the fritz, but I came back to paste this additional New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/arts/design/ada-louise-huxtable-appraisal-of-an-architecture-critic.html?hp&_r=0 However, I have to add that no thanks are due me and all gratitude should flow to those like you, Ms. Huxtable and the others who comment on this blog, who bring joy and wisdom to our lives and to our reflections about life and the artifacts that each life leaves on this Earth. As this additional article states, near its climax, “Dignity and Delight”!


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