New York Public Library 67th Street Branch
328 East 67th Street
New York, NY 10065
Block: 1441 Lot: 38
Lot Area: 5,021 sq ft
Number of floors: 3
Building Area: 4,271 sq ft (estimated)
Year(s) built: 1905
Year opened: 1905
Architect(s): Babb, Cook & Willard
Builder(s): William L. Crow
Status: Library, no designation
Late 19th & 20th Century Revivals
Italian Renaissance Revival
Walls: Masonry, Limestone
Other: Unusual Art Nouveau transom window above doorway; modillioned cornice and balustrade parapet; the interior contains original plaster ceilings, square columns, and staircase with cast iron railing
The 67th Street library is located on the south side of East 67th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, and is set up against the sidewalk. The structure is one of twenty Carnegie branches built in Manhattan and one of sixty-seven throughout the whole city.
Built in 1905 by Babb, Cook & Willard, the 67th Street Branch was one of seven Carnegie libraries the architectural firm would build. The Babb, Cook & Willard Carnegie Branches are Mott Haven (1905), 67th Street (1905), 96th Street (1905), Webster (1906), 58th Street (1907), Morrisania (1908), St. Agnes (1908), and Columbus (1909). The firm is known primarily for New York buildings such as the Andrew and Louise Carnegie House (now the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum) (1899-1903), the DeVinne Press Building (1885-6), the Caroline Ladd Pratt House (229 Clinton Avenue) (1895), and the north wing of 245 Clinton Avenue (1901) at St. Joseph’s College.[i]
The 67th Street Branch has several characteristics of the urban Carnegie library type. It has a classically-inspired style (a simplified Beaux-Arts model that was the preferred style for public structures in the early-Twentieth Century), three stories, an arched entrance that is not central, ornamental stone masonry, and tall, large arched windows on the first floor that allow an abundance of light into a relatively simple interior.
The New York City Carnegie branch libraries were designed to be distinct structures, a new concept at the turn of the Twentieth Century when most branches were simply located in other buildings. They were intended to be important fixtures in the community and centrally located in a neighborhood. The Carnegie Committee had a policy to locate branches in close proximity to public buildings such as schools, social service centers, public baths, or YM/YWCA’s. The 67th Street Branch has played this civic role in the Upper East Side for over a century.[ii]
The 67th Street Branch continues to operate as a branch of the New York Public Library. In 1939 a new roof was installed along with additional repair work, and the building was significantly renovated in 1952-3. On the exterior, the windows and entrance door are replacements, and the skylight was subsequently filled in.
Construction and Layout:
Typical of the urban Carnegie branches, the 67th Street library is a three-story, three-bay structure with only one side facing the street. The building is situated in mid-block in a densely built and heavily populated part of New York, and extends to the front property line. It has masonry walls and the front is covered in plain, unornamented limestone. The basement window well was partially filled, and the original front steps were replaced with new steps and a wheelchair-accessible ramp with non-historic iron railing. The library is topped by a flat roof.
The façade is designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, with a combination of arched and rectangular windows that get progressively smaller towards the top. The bottom of the façade consists of a molded plinth and basement windows. The arched entrance doorway is situated in the right, as opposed to the center bay so that more light can circulate throughout the first floor reading room through two tall, arched adjacent windows. Two historic metal friezes with panels and consoles are placed at the bottom of each window. The arched portions contain historic decorative sash. Keystones with foliate moldings cap the archways, which are framed by smooth limestone voussoirs.
The metal-framed doorway is placed in the right arch. An arched Art Nouveau style transom window, which includes a fanlight, is placed above the door while small round and rectangular windows appear on either side. An historic plaque is positioned to the right of the entranceway, and bronze lanterns flank the door.
The second-floor rectangular windows are framed with square pediments, above which is engraved in large capital letters “NEW YORK PVBLIC LIBRARY.” Above the inscription, a rounded cornice separates the top two floors. The third floor consists of six smaller windows with simple limestone enframements, with a set of two windows above each single second-floor window. The façade is crowned with a severe modillioned cornice that supports a balustrade for a parapet.
Each floor has a rectangular layout with large, spacious rooms filled with natural light from windows in the front and back walls. After walking up four steps to the front door, one enters a curved vestibule with original wood carvings on the walls and ceiling. The walls terminate at a carved wooden dentillated cornice at the ceiling’s edges.
Following the vestibule is a flight of steps flanked by white marble walls topped with iron railing with wooden banisters. The steps lead to the historic staircase with decorative iron railing on the right, and the large reading space on the left. The rooms feature molded plaster ceilings and rectangular plaster columns with Tuscan capitals.
A 2005 remodeling saw the restoration of the decorative iron railing in the staircase as well as the mosaic tile floors. The library’s interior has been reorganized, resulting in additional computer space, a new children’s floor, a community room, and new bathrooms.
[i] Norval White & Elliot Willensky, AIA Guide to New York City, 4th ed. (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000), 161, 429, 705.
[ii] “The Trustees are of the opinion that in establishing branch libraries it is of great importance to establish them, as far as possible, in conspicuous positions on well frequented streets. In some measure the same principles should be applied that would govern in the selection of a site for a retail store. The fact that a branch library is constantly before the eyes of the neighboring residents so that all are familiar with its location will undoubtedly tend to increase its usefulness.” George L. Rives, Secretary of The New York Public Library (1901). From the NYPL Executive Committee Minutes as quoted in Phyllis Dain, The New York Public Library (New York: New York Public Library, 1972), 237, in Mary B. Dierickx, 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), 27.