New York’s Public Library as a Travel Destination

Given the interest in the New York City Public Library’s Rose Reading Room (see response to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Illumination” theme), I thought you might enjoy a further look at what this building has to offer the traveler.

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

While the building with the stone lions gracing its entry at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street may be the most renowned, the New York Public Library is a vast system of over 80 research and branch libraries scattered throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.  The history of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building itself is fascinating beyond the history of which the building has been a part throughout the years, from the cornerstone laying in 1902 to the formal dedication in 1911, to the treasures it has collected over time, this building has stories to tell.

New York Public Library

The library is a stunning example of Beaux-Arts architecture, and when we visited over the Christmas holiday, its beauty was accentuated and enhanced by all of the seasonal decorations.

New York Public Library's Christmas Tree (2012)

As you walk up the grand marble staircase to the second floor, interesting historical exhibits line the hallway.  But, the real works of art are one more flight up.  Looking up toward the third floor while you climb the steps, your eyes meet a spectacular, gilded, arched ceiling, framing a mural of the Greek myth of Prometheus.

Stairway leading to the McGraw Rotunda ~ New York Public Library New York Public Library ~ McGraw Rotunda

Looking into the McGraw Rotunda ~ New York Public Library

McGraw Rotunda ceiling mural depicting the Greek myth of Prometheus

Various painted panels on the walls surrounding the McGraw Rotunda depict the history of the written word.

McGraw Rotunda ~ Wall murals depicting the history of the written word McGraw Rotunda ~ Wall murals depicting the history of the written word

The Bill Blass Public Catalog Room is off of the Rotunda, and I found it almost as stunning as the Rose Main Reading Room.  As we stood looking upward, probably with mouths agape, taking in the splendor of it all, the security guard standing off to the side said, “You haven’t seen anything yet, just wait.”

Bill Blass Public Catalog Room ~ New York Public Library
Bill Blass Public Catalog Room ~ New York Public Library

Ceiling of the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room ~ New York Public Library

“A good Booke is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, imbalm’d and treasur’d up on purposes to a life beyond life.” ~ Quote written on the doorway leading to the Rose Main Reading Room

Doorway leading from the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room to the Rose Main Reading Room
Doorway leading from the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room to the Rose Main Reading Room

The ethereal ceiling mural is glimpsed through the glass above the door leading to the Main Reading Room, but is not appreciated until you are standing underneath it.

Ceiling mural in the Rose Main Reading Room ~ New York Public Library

New York Public Library's Rose Main Reading Room
New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room (featured in the Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination” post)

One of my favorite treasures contained in the New York Public Library required walking back down the three flights of stairs, and descending to the ground floor level where the Children’s Center is located.  Safely protected in a glass case are the original inspirations for A. A. Milne’s Winne-the-Pooh stories!  Well-worn and much-loved by the author’s son, Pooh Bear is kept company by Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Kanga.

New York Public Library's Winnie-the-Pooh CollectionThe Original Winnie-the-Pooh at the New York Public LibraryThe Original Tigger, Kanga, Piglet and Eeyore at the New York Public Library

We have found public libraries to often reflect classic architecture, and to contain works of art and treasures comparable to a museum, or hidden gems like Pooh Bear and friends!  Do you have a favorite library that you have explored while traveling?

Ciao! ~ Kat

42 responses to “New York’s Public Library as a Travel Destination”

  1. I love this post! Seeing all the original Pooh creatures made my heart skip a beat–Milne’s stories were a big part of my childhood (across the wall in the Soviet Union). I didn’t know they were in New York. From the libraries I’ve been to, I remember really enjoying the British Library in London, and being blown away by the accessibility of all the original manuscripts–a Magna Carta reedition and da Vinci’s notes right there before me–and Jane Austen’s writing desk… In the US, I haven’t been to as many big libraries as I would like to, but I love the grand Jefferson building of the Library of Congress in DC and the stunning Peabody Library in Baltimore. I am glad I found your blog.


    • Thank you so much — I have never been to DC’s and Baltimore’s libraries, and hope I have the chance to do so soon! And there is still so much more to revisit in Boston and NYC’s libraries, as well.


  2. I am running a series about libraries on my blog (in Dublin and private libraries) and like your blog about this library really much. I might reblog it if I am allowed to.
    Greetings from the coast of North Norfolk


    • Thank you, yes, feel free to reblog — I am honored! Your series is very well-done — libraries contain so many fascinating things beyond books. I hope to have a post completed soon on the Boston Public Library, similar to my New York library post. ~ Kat


  3. Kat, this was a lovely trip, and as much as I enjoyed all of your pictures, my heart warmed to see the Pooh toys. Winnie-the-Pooh has such a dear place in our home, and I had no idea there were truly toys and not just stories for Christopher Robin. Loved this post! 🙂


    • We spent more time wandering around the library than we had planned, and as we were getting ready to leave, I told my family we couldn’t leave without seeing Pooh and friends! It makes those stories even more dear knowing their origins. ~ Kat


  4. Kat, it’s been years since I’ve strolled through the NY Public Library. I love the painted panels! Thanks for bringing back more good memories.


  5. Wow, Kat…the NY Public Library is beautiful! This is a must visit when I get to New York someday:) To think we’d travel to Rome for such awesome murals…Glad you’ve highlighted this place!


  6. What beautiful photos! I’ve been to NYC so many times and never realized what treasures the library contained! Thanks so much for sharing your visit:-)


  7. Was a time when things of the mind were revered to such an extent that vast ‘temples’ or ‘palaces’ were built to house them … all too soon places like this library will become even more vital than they are today.


  8. Breathtaking! The library is beyond belief. So many books, so little time to read them all!! Thanks for letting me tag along on the adventure…


    • It is definitely worth the visit — I would love to return and explore some of their interesting historical pieces and collections. They also often have rotating exhibits worth visiting. ~ Kat


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