New York Public Library Aguilar Branch
172-174 East 110th Street
Manhattan, New York
Year(s) built: 1904 – 1905
Architect(s): Herts & Tallant
Builder(s): General Building and Construction
Designation: Individual New York City Landmark, designated 1996 (LP-1987)
The Aguilar Branch of the New York Public Library, erected between 1904 and 1905, is the tenth Carnegie branch library to be constructed in Manhattan and the thirteenth to be constructed in the entire city. Located on the southern side of East 110th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues in Harlem, it was designated an individual New York City landmark in 1996.
Designed by well-known theatre architects Herts & Tallent, the Aguilar Branch Library is a rare example of the firm’s institutional work and the only of the Carnegie libraries of their design. Its exaggerated Classically inspired forms and intricate iron screen make it distinct among the branch libraries.
The extant library is actually an extensively renovated version of the first Aguilar Free Library – also designed by Herts & Tallant. This original Aguilar Library was an Art Nouveau design built between 1898-1899 that was erected largely through the philanthropic support of Grace Aguilar (1816-1847), a popular British novelist and essayist of Sephardic Jewish descent, in addition to other affluent New York Jewish families. Incoroporated in 1886, the Aguilar Free Library was among only a few circulating libraries built specifically to benefit poorer Jewish immigrants in New York.
In 1903, the Aguilar Free Library consolidated with the New York Public Library to become the Aguilar Branch. One year later, following the distribution of the Carnegie funds, the adjacent lot was acquired and extensive remodeling took place: an addition was added to the rear, a third story was added, and the existing façade was enlarged and restyled so that the library effectively tripled in size.
The library was constructed by the firm General Building and Construction for a total cost of $91,739. It opened to the public on November 29, 1905 and has been in continuous operation ever since. Between 1993 and 1996, under the supervision of architects Gruzen Samton, the interior spaces were renovated, the exterior façade was restored, and a handicap access ramp was added to the front of the building.
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