The renovated Rose Main Reading Room, New York Public Library Main Branch, New York City
© Sascha Kilmer/Getty Image
A palace for the public
May 23, 2021 marks the 110th anniversary of the opening of the New York Public Library's Main Branch (now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building). Back just before the turn of the 20th century, a group of New York City business leaders decided that if their hometown was ever going to compete with Paris and London as a center of urban culture, it needed a great library.
It took almost two decades and a lot of brainpower and money to create the architectural masterpiece that stands today on New York's Fifth Avenue. On the day the library opened to the public, 30,000 to 50,000 people streamed through its doors to take in the architecture and gaze at the one million books on display. The first book request was filed at 9:08 AM and delivered to the reader six minutes later through the library's rapid delivery system. Since then, it's become part of the very fabric of New York and has been featured in movies from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' to 'Ghostbusters' to 'Spiderman.'
Today, we turn our gaze to the beaux-arts delight that is the Main Branch's Rose Main Reading Room. It is truly one of New York's great public spaces, a lavish hall where one can come to escape the bustle of the city streets and the honking of taxis. This room underwent an extensive renovation after one of the ceiling's gilded rosettes crashed to the floor in May 2014. Now it's all spiffed up and in perfect form for the library's anniversary.