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Blog Posts by Subject: Architecture

The House That Elmer Built

  Last week, the Tottenville community lost a piece of its history. On September 9, the century old Manor House, a beautiful waterfront mansion located at 500 Butler Boulevard, was demolished. Although the Butler Manor Civic Association attempted to preserve the historic house, it was torn down by its new owner to make way for the building of luxury homes.

According to the

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You are here: 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in 1857

I am at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. According to plate 78 of my map atlas—Williams Perris’s 1857 “Maps of the City of New York”—the massive (2) block long stone structure at the southwest corner of this Manhattan intersection is not the ... Read More ›

My Library: Sam

Sam is a researcher who makes use of both research and circulating collections at the NYPL. We hope he gets another grant so that he can write "The Library Space as Public Living Room (With Great DVDs): An Anthro-Architectural Analysis." Read More ›

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City

Robert A Caro’s tome The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York is a thick, unwieldy book at 1344 pages. It sits on my shelf with yellowed pages. I bought it shortly after I moved to New York City 30 years ago. I enjoy history and learned after I moved here that Robert Moses was an important piece of the NYC history puzzle. The book upon first reading was lost to me. I had no real understanding of New York City at that point and Robert Moses’ story 

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Art in the Stacks: Part One

Collis P Huntington mansion, interior, Central Hall with painted lunette murals by H. Siddons Mowbray, c. 1894. Altered photograph courtesy Yale University Art Gallery.Those who use the resources of the Art & Architecture Collection come in splendid variety: old and young, sophisticated and naive, happily curious and relentlessly searching. We love it, for where else could you be asked "just what is that building in back of that Madonna" followed by a search for more of Grandmama's old Limoge 

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The Craft of the Book--TONIGHT!

Interested in learning how books were made during the hand-press era? If so, please join me at the Library this evening for an illustrated history of the craftsmanship of paper making, printing, and bookbinding. I’ll be gathering some how-to books on book arts from our collections to share with you too, to help you get started making books.

There's no need to register, and it’s a free class—here are the details:

Wednesday June 10th, 6:00 to 7:00pm (classroom will open at 5:45pm) New York Public Library

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A Slide Lecture & Discussion on Stanford White, Architect with Samuel White on Tues, April 14 at 6:30 at Mid-Manhattan Library

I first learned about Stanford White in E. L. Doctorow’s book Ragtime. It was the lurid tale of lust and murder regarding Stanford White that remained in my mind until I moved to New York City many years ago. Over a long period of time, I have come to learn Stanford White was much more than the scandal that I first associated with him. Stanford White was a master designer and instrumental in many of the great architectural works of the city.

Without knowing it, I came across the legacy of Stanford White 

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Log Cabins R Us

Folk singer Pete Seeger looked up 'log cabin' at The New York Public Library when he wanted to build a home in upstate New York, according to a recent New Yorker interview (Wilkinson, Alec. "The Protest Singer." New Yorker v.82, no. 9 (April 17, 2006): p44).

Curious, I repeated his query in the library catalog starting with a simple search for "log cabin*" (the asterisk wildcard finds both singular and plural). Now I've posted a guide to these resources, attached 

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Hamilton Grange has moved, once again…

During the weekend of June 7th, the National Park Service literally moved the home of Alexander Hamilton, known as the Hamilton Grange National Memorial, two blocks over to the hillside corner of St. Nicholas Park. 

The federal style country home built by the architect, John McComb Jr., was completed in 1802 and named "The Grange" after the Hamilton 

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Tunnel from Brooklyn to London…

Ever wish you could see what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean…well now you can go down to the Fulton Ferry Landing near the Brooklyn Bridge and take a peek at what is going on in London. 

The Telectroscope by the artist Paul St George, a brass and wood telescope, 37 feet long by 11 feet tall…will visually connect New Yorkers to people in London, where an identical scope will sit on the banks of the Thames in the shadow of Tower Bridge. 

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The Mighty Manhattan Bridge

The power of the Manhattan Bridge cannot be denied. It is an orchestration of rivet studded girders, harp like cables and beautiful beaux art design and it spans the East River like a dancer leaping across a stage. Her audience is the city of New York and specifically its Brooklyn residents. I ride across her expanse daily via the subway. I always position myself by a window. Once the train is delivered from darkness, I stop what I am reading and look out: out the windows, through the massive metal beams, beyond the walkway and out into the city. It is a ride I never tire of because 

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A Vertical Reflecting Pool in Midtown

I work at the Mid-Manhattan Library at 40th Street and 5th Ave. In the evening when I leave from work, I walk down 40th Street to the subway station at 6th Ave. This spring I noticed something different, something I never noticed before. The weather was beginning to warm, the days were growing longer and there was an explosion of green coming from Bryant Park. I happen to look up as I walked west on 40th Street. At that moment, I was met with a striking, yet subtle view.

I stood there a few moments to take it all in, as people hurriedly passed me by. As the world 

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Mile High Building…

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud plans to build the world's tallest building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It will be a mile tall skyscraper, “taller than four Empire State Buildings stacked upon each other.” From “Billionaire Plans To Start Mile-High Building Club” (, 02.25.08)

Currently in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the Burj Dubai tower is being constructed. Though still in 

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A Landmark of New York…

Recently the well known dance club Webster Hall (building, not the club) was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Built in 1886 by architect Charles Rentz, Webster Hall became one of the country’s first modern nightclubs. According the Webster Hall website “It was where the original bohemians, like Emma Goldman, Marcel DuChamp and Margaret Sangor, created unique costume balls to 

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Building for Books

The Vancouver Public LibraryArchitectural Record has a recurring section called "Building Types Study". The February 2008 issue’s section is dedicated to library design and one of the three libraries discussed is NYPL’s Mulberry Street Branch. The Record commends the architectural firm Roger Marvel Architects for allowing diffused light to penetrate “into both subterranean levels via the central stair”, which it calls “an important psychological 

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Storefront Design This Holiday Season

If you’ve been wandering through New York in the vicinity of Madison Avenue in the 50s and 60s, or along 57th Street, you can see a veritable flood of recent storefront facade redecoration. Take a look at the various styles, but don’t be surprised if the choices reflect designs from the 1920s and 1930s. A tendency toward French-inspired aesthetics is also apparent. Although it was Napoleon who famously derided the English as being “a nation of shopkeepers,” the French have always known how to link commerce and chic.

Look in the library catalog under the 

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The Mystery of the Old Stone Mill.

(This is just one of many stereoscopic views of the Old Stone Mill that you can see in the NYPL Digital Gallery.)

No, this is no Nancy Drew series title. This is something that I learned about when while in Newport, Rhode Island, earlier this fall.

There’s a hand-built stone structure in this lovely town that, centuries after its construction, continues to inspire debates concerning its 

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Tottenville’s Architectural Heritage

The Tottenville Historical Society will discuss the findings of the Tottenville Historic Resource Survey, a study of 250+ of the oldest homes and buildings in the community, including the process of dating them using deeds, maps, and, in many cases, by identification of their distinctive architectural details.

The program will begin with a brief slide presentation showing several unique local homes and buildings, followed by a discussion and a question and answer 

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Friday Eye Candy

This is a photo of the Map Division at the New York Public Library. One of the many beautiful spaces at the Library.  Not only is it a great source for map research, it is also an inspiration for any design enthusiast. Gold leaf ceiling, anyone?

And although New York Public is my daily source of inspiration, I found a wonderful online exhibition of great libraries all over the world from

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Ode to the Beaux (-Arts)

It would be impossible to write about design from New York Public Library and not mention the Library building itself.  When I first came to work at the Library, I would marvel at its grandeur, the overwhelming scale of the staircases, the height of the ceilings, the copious amounts of marble. But now, after working in this building everyday for five years, it is the details that amaze me–a hidden staircase, a lion mask on a chandelier, the carved acanthus leaves crowning a wooden column.  The architects of this grand

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