The New York Public Library Restores Fountains on Fifth Avenue Façade

Restoration supported by a grant from the Wilson Charitable Trust

July 9, 2015 - The New York Public Library has restored the operation of two large historic fountains on the Fifth Avenue façade of its iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. 

The restoration of the fountains – located below historic statues on either side of the main stairway – was made possible with a generous contribution from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and marks the first time in nearly three decades that they will be operational. 

“The fountains and the statues above are among the most prominent, historic, and beautiful features of the building,” said Library President Tony Marx.  “We are delighted to bring the fountains back to life for the enjoyment of everyone, and we’re grateful to the Wilson Charitable Trust for making this possible.  Robert Wilson was one of the most generous donors in the history of the Library, and we are proud to have his legacy continue.”  

In order to repair the fountains, the Library had to replace all of the related interior plumbing and the drainage and water circulation systems. Equipment for the circulation and filtration systems had to be custom-fabricated.  

The statues above the large fountains—Truth on the north side and Beauty on the south—are the work of Frederick MacMonnies, a sculptor and painter born in Brooklyn in 1863 who trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  MacMonnies collaborated with architects John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings on the Library building, which opened in 1911. Other of MacMonnies’ works include Nathan Hale in City Hall Park and Bacchante and Infant Faun in the Metropolitan Museum.  He also created components of the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. His American Monument in Meaux, France, was commissioned as a gift to the people of France in exchange for the Statue of Liberty.  

The support for the project from the Wilson Charitable Trust builds on the remarkable generosity of the Trust’s founder, the philanthropist Robert W. Wilson, one of the most generous donors in the history of The New York Public Library, who contributed over $90 million to the Library during his lifetime.

“Robert Wilson had a keen interest in preservation,” said Richard G. Schneidman, a Trustee of the Wilson Charitable Trust, “preserving our environment, the world’s great architecture, and our collective cultural heritage.  His gifts to the Library helped preserve its great research collections and expand access to them through modern technology.  We’re very glad that the Wilson Charitable Trust can continue this tradition by restoring the Fifth Avenue fountains, one of the Library’s great architectural features.”  


Angela Montefinise |

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