If you have any question about where you are, the lions will tell you. They’ve been presiding over the New York Public Library since its construction in 1911.
The Library’s funding distinguishes it among most public libraries. Through most of its history, it has been a public/private partnership – public funds paid for the circulation library and its branches, while private money supported the extensive research facilities.
When the Library opened, it housed a then-astounding 1,000,000 volumes. Seventy-five miles of shelving were needed, and it took an entire year to bring the collection into the building and set it up. The main reading room is 78 feet wide, 297 feet long, with 52 feet high ceilings.
Little-known architects Carrere and Hastings designed the building, which at the time was the largest marble structure in America. But, as beautiful as the building is, it’s the lions sculpted by Edward Clock Potter – named “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia – that have made the building memorable.
I can say from personal experience that there’s no better way to while away a few hours on a beautiful spring afternoon than to sit on the Library’s steps and watch the passing parade of New York City. People-watching at its best.