Manhattan Carnegie Libraries- 115th Street Branch
New York Public Library 115th Street Branch
203 West 115th Street
Manhattan, New York
Block: 1831, Lot: 26
Lot Area: 5,046 sq. ft. (50’ x 100.92’)
Number of Floors: 3
Building Area: 12,318 sq. ft. (50’ x 77’)
Year(s) built: 1907-1908
Architect(s): McKim, Mead & White
Builder(s): Isaac Hopper & Son
Designation: New York City Individual Landmark, designated 1967 (LP-0298), nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 (NR00698)
Architectural Classification: Renaissance Revival
Other: Limestone cornice and decorative details
Located on the south side of West 115th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Eighth Avenue, this palazzo-inspired library is three stories tall and three bays wide. It is entirely clad in deep rusticated limestone, making it unique among the Carnegie branches.
Designed by McKim, Mead, & White, the firm responsible for thirteen of the Carnegie branch libraries, it reflects the Classically-inspired aesthetic of their other designs. It was built by Isaac Hopper & Son, a New York construction company, who were employed to build four other Carnegie branches throughout the city including the 96th Street and Yorkville branches.
The site was purchased for $40,000 and the building was erected for $88,060. The library officially opened on November 6, 1908. It was the twentieth Carnegie branch library to be erected in Manhattan and has been in continuous operation since its opening over a century ago.
The library was designated an individual New York City landmark in 1967 and it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Construction and Layout:
This 115th Street Branch of the New York Public Library is a freestanding masonry construction. This palazzo-inspired library stands three stories high and is symmetrically organized into three equal bays. Its rectangular plan is identical to that of the 125th Street Branch Library, also designed by McKim, Mead & White.
Three large round arched openings with radiating voussoirs dominate the first and second floors of the 115th Street Branch. On the first floor, the westernmost opening contains the main entrance to the library, while the other two are windows. Windows on the first floor is six-over-six double hung, flanked by narrow lights and topped by a fanlight, which – although replacements – repeat the fenestration patterns of the originals. Each window includes a low balustrade. Above the arch of the center bay is a heavy cartouche, held up by carved cherubs, that depicts the seal of the City of New York and an open book.
A thin band course embellished with a repeating scroll pattern forms the sill level of the next story. Like those of the first story, windows are six-over-six double hung with sidelights and fanlights but include an additional transom beneath each fanlight.
The transition between the second and third stories is indicated by a simple band course. Above, the three rectangular openings contain six-over-six double hung windows with voussoirs and sidelights. An elaborately carved modillion cornice tops the flat-roofed building. The entablature is inscribed “NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY” and carved with a Greek fret.
The cornice was shaved back in 1912 as it was found that it stuck out ten inches over the lot line. The library underwent a series of renovations to the interior in 1953 during which time heating and electrical systems were updated.
Visitors to the library enter into a small vestibule with marble wainscoting, wood-paneled ceiling and a multi-paned screen that are a part of the original 1908 design. From the vestibule, visitors may move into the large circulation room containing the adult reading areas.
The library includes a children’s room on the second floor and additional reading rooms and library offices on the third. A number of original features have survived including the original plaster ceiling supported by round plaster columns, wood paneling, circulation desk, and shelves as well as the original staircase with decorative iron railings.
 Dierickx, Mary B., The Architecture of Literacy: The Carnegie Libraries of New York City. New York: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and The New York City Department of General Services. 1996. p. 149.