Go and read. The library is housed in a grand building but eschews the severe atmosphere so often associated with such places
Found in Greenwich Village, where its bell tower stands head and shoulders above the surrounding buildings, the Jefferson Market Library was built in 1877. Since then it has seen several uses: it was originally the Third Judicial Courthouse, then it was a women’s detention centre, and today it serves as a branch of the New York Public Library.
It was set to be demolished in 1958 but the public, marshalled by Margot Gayle and the poet E. E. Cummings, petitioned and led to it being refashioned as a library. It’s still used today, and remains an iconic landmark in Greenwich Village. Its distinctive tower holds “Ol’ Jeff”, the affectionately named fire bell, which was silent until 1996, when it began to ring again. Now this serves as an hourly reminder of the value of architectural preservation, helping restore the notion of the village in Greenwich Village and providing a precious link to the area’s history.
Mad King Ludwig
The building’s design imitates that of Mad Ludwig II of Bavaria’s famous Neuschwanstein Castle. With its leaded glass, steeply sloping roofs, gables, pinnacles and Venetian Gothic embellishments, it is bizarre for New York, but strangely appropriate for The Village.
Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Wonderful
By 1927 the courts were used solely for women’s trials. Famously the playwright Mae West was tried there on obscenity charges after her Broadway play “Sex” was targeted by the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
An Amoral Guide
The library holds some interesting and rare books about the history of New York, including the wonderful “New York Unexpurgated: an amoral guide for the jaded, tired, evil, non-conforming, corrupt, condemned, and the curious, humans and otherwise, to underground Manhattan”.
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