The New York Public Library, adjacent to Bryant Park and designed by Carrère & Hastings (1911), is one of the country's finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture, a majestic structure of white Vermont marble with Corinthian columns and allegorical statues. Before climbing the broad flight of steps to the Fifth Avenue entrance, note the famous lion sculptures -- Fortitude on the right, and Patience on the left -- so dubbed by whip-smart former mayor Fiorello La Guardia. At Christmastime they don natty wreaths to keep warm.
This library is actually the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, only one of the research libraries in the New York Public Library system. The interior is one of the finest in the city and features Astor Hall, with high arched marble ceilings and grand staircases. Thanks to restoration and modernization, the Main Reading Rooms on the third floor have been returned to their stately glory and moved into the computer age (goodbye, card catalogs!). They are a must-see. Note: For those who just have to stay in touch, the library now provides Wi-Fi service for free in the reading rooms. After a $5-million restoration, what was once known only as Room 117, a Beaux Arts masterpiece with incredible views of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, is now known as the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. Here you will find possibly the finest and most extensive collection of maps in the world. In 2008, the Library's facade began a 3-year restoration, to be completed for the building's centennial in 2011.
Even if you don't stop in to peruse the periodicals, you may want to check out one of the excellent rotating exhibitions. Call or check the website to see what's on while you're in town. There's also a full calendar of lecture programs, with past speakers ranging from Tom Stoppard to Pico Iyer; popular speakers often sell out, so it's a good idea to purchase tickets in advance.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010