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About the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room
First Floor, Room 108
Phone: (212) 930-0971
The DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room (Room 108) services current issues of 200 popular periodicals and 22 domestic and foreign newspapers. The remaining thousands of periodicals are requested through the Microform Reading Room (Room 100), also on the first floor. The Periodicals Room is Wi-Fi enabled.
Who was Dewitt Wallace?
The DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room is named for the founder of Reader's Digest Magazine. In the 1920's DeWitt Wallace spent countless hours in the Periodical Room, reading and condensing articles from the Library's collection. In 1983, the room's restoration was made possible by a generous gift from the Wallace Fund, established by DeWitt Wallace.
The importance of periodicals in the history and daily cultural and social life of New York is acknowledged in the wall murals that depict significant publishers of periodicals, newspapers, and books at the turn of the century. This generous gift to the Library also made the painting of thirteen murals possible. These paintings by the contemporary New York artist Richard Haas depict buildings associated with Periodical publishing in New York City. Listen to a conversation about the murals with the artist Richard Haas.
Descriptions of the Murals in the Periodicals Reading Room
Charles Scribner’s Sons
From 1913 to 1984, Scribner was located at 597 Fifth Avenue (48th Street), where it also operated a bookstore. The building, an elegant Beaux-Arts limestone-faced structure, appears in the mural to the left of the request desk. Entrance and display windows framed by black iron work and two-story mansard roof are characteristic of late nineteenth-century architecture. This building was designed by Ernest Flagg (1857–1947), a prominent American architect and Charles Scribner’s brother-in-law. Sculptural ironwork at the street level constitutes one of the only remaining ornamental storefronts in Manhattan.
In 1930, McGraw-Hill commissioned Raymond Hood, Godley and Fouilhoux to build an all-encompassing headquarters for the company; Raymond Hood (1881–1934) was the chief architect on the project. Since its completion in 1931, the thirty-five story, blue-green McGraw-Hill building at 330 West 42nd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues has been considered New York’s first monument to the international style. The versatile appearance of the tower results from its exciting profiles—an Art Deco contour and a straight slab. Ribbon windows encircling the building in horizontal bands (later used in the Look building, 1950) and the use of the terra cotta, which gives a chameleon blue-green cast make this one of New York’s most recognizable buildings.
The Hearst Building
The six-story Hearst International Magazine Building was originally designed by Joseph Urban (1872–1933), in association with George B. Post and Sons in 1928, as a twenty story Art Deco office building. It occupies the block from 56th Street to West 57th Street along Eight Avenue. Allegorical statues representing “Sport and Industry,” “Printing and the Sciences,” and “Comedy and Tragedy,” decorate the exterior.
The central portion of the reader’s Digest Building in Pleasantville, New York, crowns the doorway to the adjoining reading area of the periodical room. The first few editions of Reader’s Digest (February 1922) were mailed from DeWitt Wallace’s apartment in Greenwich Village at 1 Minetta Lane. In 1923, the offices were moved to a pony shed in Pleasantville, New York. Since 1939, headquarters for the Reader’s Digest Association have been in this building designed by James C. Mackenzie.
The Look Building
To the immediate right of the doorway, the Look Building, built as the corporate headquarters of the Cowles Communications, impresses the eye with its seemingly infinite strips of ribbon windows. In 1950, Emery Roth and Sons designed this twenty-four-story structure located at 488 Madison Avenue (51st and 52nd Streets). The Look Building provides an elegant example of ribbon windows and columns recessed from the exterior, an office building style that emerged in the post war era.
City Hall, Newspaper Row
Park Row, Old Post Office
The murals on the Fifth Avenue side of the room give a turn-of-the-century view of Newspaper Row, located south of city hall at the intersection of Park Row and Nassau Streets. The World (1881–1930), the Tribune (1841–1924), and the New York Times (1851), clustered their offices here with other metropolitan dailies in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The brownstone with a gilded dome, built in 1890 (enlarged in 1908) by George B. Post (1837–1913), housed the offices of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. Next door, in a red brick building with a clock tower designed by Richard Morris Hunt (1827–1895), was Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. Hunt’s structure, one of Manhattan’s first skyscraper and earliest elevator buildings, stood until 1966. From 1851 to 1904, the New York Times used three buildings on Newspaper Row for its offices (41 Park Row), and was located in a building rebuilt and enlarged by George B. Post in 1889.
The mural on the right of Newspaper Row shows the second home of the New York Times (1857–1887), near the Old Post Office. A bronze figure of Benjamin Franklin by Ernest Plassman stood in Prntinghouse Square in front of this Times office.
The Puck Building
The Puck Building is depicted in the left-most mural on the 40th Street side of the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room. Only one side of the building, the East Houston and Mulberry Street section with the figure of Puck, is shown. In 1885, Albert Wagner designed a red brick, seven-story, Romanesque style building at 295–305 Lafayette Street—the block bounded by East Houston, Lafayette, Jersey, and Mulberry Streets. Two stories were added by Wagner in 1892–93. The Puck Building was characterized in King’s Handbook of New York (1893) as the “largest building in the world devoted to the business of lithography and publishing, with a floor area of nearly eight acres.” Two metal figures of Puck by Henry Baerer (1837–1908) appear in the entablature of the entrance and on the East Houston and Mulberry Street side of this structure.
Harper and Brothers
The Harper and Brothers building appears in the largest mural on the 40th Street side of the room. An early example of cast-iron architecture in New York City, the Harper Building stood at 331 Pearl Street in Franklin Square from 1854 to 1920. Engineer James Bogardus (1800–1874) and architect John B. Corlies created one of the most progressive buildings of the period with its supposedly fireproof iron skeleton and cast-iron facade. With his patent for prefabricating iron parts for buildings, Bogardus prompted the wide spread use of innovative cast iron facades in America.
The Evening Post
The Evening Post Building is the subject of the mural to the right of Harper and Brothers. Founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801, the newspaper has survived as the New York Post . The original location was Broadway and Fulton Street on Newspaper Row. Under the ownership of Oswald Garrison Villard, offices were built in 1906 at 20 Vesey Street. This fourteen-story building, designed by Robert D. Kohn (1870–1953), survives today as one of the few outstanding Art Nouveau style buildings in the United States. Cast-iron spandrels decorated with colophones of well-known sixteenth and seventeenth century printers ornament the facade. Note the statues representing “The Four Periods of Publicity” by Gutzon Borglum (1867–1941) and Estelle Rumbold Kohn that also embellish this building's facade.
The next mural to the right illustrates the second office of James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald. Established in May 1835, The New York Herald merged with Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune in 1924 to form The New York Herald Tribune (published until April 24, 1966). Bennett chose the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White to design a building for the Herald, at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Broadway (34th and 35th Streets). At its completion in 1895, the New York Times praised this splendid two-story palazzo as a “show, an exhibition, a palace.” The chronicle included a sculptural group of Minerva, two owls, and two bellringers by Jean-Antonin Carles (1851–1919). This McKim, Mead and White building was demolished in 1921. The sculptures by Carles and the two clocks that decorated the facade are preserved on a monument that stands today in the small park at 34th Streets across from Macy’s department store.
The New York Times offices from 1904 to 1913, designed by Cyrus L. Eidlitz (1853–1921) and Alexander MacKenzie in 1904, fill the central panel to the right of Herald Square. The mural shows the twenty-five story tower as it appeared before the removal of its original terra-cotta skin in 1966. The headquarters for The New York Times are now located at 620 8th Avenue in a building by Renzo Piano, completed in 2007.
The thirty-three-story Time Life Building in Rockefeller Center, depicted in this mural, was designed in 1936 and completed in 1938 by an eight-person team known as Associated Architects, which included L. Andrew Reinhard and Henry Hofmeister, Harvey W. Corbett, Wallace K. Harrison and William H. MacMurray, Raymond Hood, Frederic Godley, and Jacques Andre Fouilhoux. In 1960, Time-Life moved to new offices at 1271 Avenue of the Americas at West 50th Street.