Walking around aimlessly on my first day in New York, I came across a beautifully grand building and two majestic lions zealously guarding its entrance. Intrigued I went up to see what it was and it turned out to be the New York Public Library. I saw numerous people entering it with cameras and generally walked in to see what it was all about. I had earlier loved its exteriors but was majorly surprised by its unexpected stunning interiors. I then spent an entire afternoon walking through its various rooms, checking out it’s amazing collection of books and photographing its various nooks and corners. Sharing the same with you below –
In terms of its history in a quick snapshot, in the second half of the 19th century, New York was fast growing to become one of the world’s important centres of urban culture and its citizens felt it should have a world-class library. Prominent among them was one-time governor Samuel J. Tilden, who upon his death bequeathed the bulk of his fortune — about $2.4 million — to “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.” At that time NY had 2 important libraries – the Astor and the Lenox but both had their own set of limitations and were facing financial difficulties. It was several years later that John Bigelow, a New York attorney and Tilden trustee, devised a plan whereby they combined the resources of the Astor and Lenox libraries and the Tilden Trust to form a new entity, known as The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
The Lions at the entrance of the library enjoy their own stardom and are “New York’s most lovable public sculpture”. They have names of their own and in 1930s were named Patience and Fortitude, for the qualities that New Yorker’s would need to survive the economic depression. These names have stood the test of time: Patience still guards the south side of the Library’s steps and Fortitude the north. As a tribute to the Lions’ popularity and all that they stand for, the Library adopted these figures as its official mascots.
Tips for the trip –
- There are free walking tours of this building, Monday to Saturday at 11.00am and 2.00pm.
- There is an interesting gift shop on the ground floor for some unique souvenirs and gifts for family and friends back at home. Check out their books with some unique covers that make beautiful collectables.