New York Public Library Hudson Park Branch
66 Leroy Street
New York, NY 10014
Block: 1722 Lot: 30
Lot Area: 4,743 sq ft (47’ x 100.92’)
Number of floors: 2
Building Area: 3,803 sq ft (estimated)
Year(s) built: 1904-06, 1920
Year opened: 1906
Architect(s): Carrere & Hastings
Builder(s): John T. Brady Company
Status: Library, falls within the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II (June 22, 2010)
Late 19th & 20th Century Revivals
Walls: Brick, Limestone
Other: L-shaped, brick facade, arched windows with soldier arches and molded keystones, main building located on Leroy Street, small expansion located on 7th Avenue South
L-shaped in plan, the Hudson Park library is located on the southwest corner of Leroy Street and 7th Avenue, with one façade on the south side of Leroy Street and a much smaller façade on the west side of 7th Avenue between Leroy and Clarkson Streets. The building is situated to the east of a community recreation center and pool.
Completed by Carrere & Hastings in 1906, Hudson Park is one of fourteen Carnegie branches the architectural firm built in New York City. The Carrere & Hastings Carnegies are Stapleton (1904), Tottenville (1904), Port Richmond (1905), Tremont (1905), Riverside (1905), Muhlenberg (1906), Hudson Park (1906), Epiphany (1907), St. George (1907), High Bridge (1908), Hamilton Fish Park (1909), Washington Heights (1914), Melrose (1914) and Hunt’s Point (1929).
The builder, the John T. Brady Company, constructed the Hamilton Fish and High Bridge Carnegies in collaboration with Carrere & Hastings. Additionally, the building company completed three Brooklyn branches: the Brownsville and Fort Hamilton libraries for Lord & Hewlett, Architects, and the Red Hood library for Walker & Morris, Architects.
In 1904, the building’s site was purchased from Ida M.W. Lentilhon and Herbert D. Ward, Trustee, for $40,000, and Charles R. Faruolo for $4,000. Construction and equipment cost $78,894.15, for a total cost of $122,894.15.[i] The principal factor in choosing the Hudson Park Branch’s location was Hudson Park, which was adjacent to the building during its first eleven years of operation. In 1917, the southward extension of 7th Avenue from 11th Street to Carmine Street (to clear the way for the new IRT subway line) effectively destroyed the park.[ii]
The Hudson Park Branch has several characteristics of both the suburban and urban Carnegie library type. Located mostly in the less densely populated areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens, the suburban branches are most often built in a Classical Revival style, feature red brick walls accented with a minimum of limestone ornamentation, and have tall, large windows to allow an abundance of light into the reading rooms. Like the urban branches, the library is situated mid-block in a densely built and heavily populated neighborhood, extends to the building line, and the ground floor features three tall, arched bays that face the street.
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 Hudson Park Branch has played this civic role in Greenwich Village for over a century.[iii] The library catered to the neighborhood’s Italian immigrant community at the time of its opening. The popular Father Antonio Demo of Our Lady of Pompeii Church helped choose Italian-language books for the branch’s collection. The poet Marianne Moore worked as a library assistant from 1921 to 1925.
The Hudson Park Branch Falls within the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II (June 22, 2010) and continues to operate as a branch of the New York Public Library. The most significant alteration occurred in 1920, when Carrere & Hastings expanded the building eastward to the new 7th Avenue extension. As a result, the library abuts the west and south facades of a seven-story brick apartment building at the southwest corner of Leroy Street and 7th Avenue. Additional renovations were made in 1939. Certain ceilings have been partially lowered and newer fluorescent lighting fixtures were installed.
Construction and Layout:
The two-story, three-bay-wide, six-bay-deep original library is a trapezoidal structure built along Leroy Street. The extension that faces 7th Avenue is vaguely square-shaped. Both buildings combine to form an L-shaped plan. The library has masonry walls and the front is covered in brick and limestone. The building is topped by a flat roof. A stairway in the front, which led from street level to the basement was subsequently filled in.
The original library’s facade is clad in dark red bricks set in a Flemish Bond, and is anchored by a severe stone base. The north facade is two stories high and three bays wide. The ground floor contains three tall arched bays, two windows and a side bay entrance, to allow an abundance of light into the reading rooms. Each arch is bordered by a brick soldier arch, capped with a molded limestone keystone, and has an inner limestone enframement. The two windows feature stone sills and plain stone spandrels. The non-historic paired double hung windows have nine over nine sash patterns, as well as fanlights. The doors and arched transom window feature metal scalloped screens. Non-historic lanterns flank the doorway, which is approached by two non-historic steps.
A limestone band course and sill separate the first and second floors. The second-story bays are tall, rectangular, and have severe limestone enframements. Each bay features a plain stone spandrel with an historic iron railing, and a window with an identical sash pattern as those on the first floor. Glass spandrels fill the space between the arched fanlights and the rectangular window frames. The three bays interrupt a second limestone band course. Above the course is a brick frieze, which contains a central limestone panel with the engraved words “NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY.” A projecting dentillated cornice crowns the facade, and continues along the west facade. The dentils are interrupted by plain, uncarved stone bands that are parallel with each window. A brick parapet with stone insets (parallel with the spaces between the windows) tops the cornice.
The library’s west facade is six bays wide and features the same characteristics as the north facade. The one exception is that the second first-floor arched window from Leroy Street is bricked in. A no longer extant single-story structure with a sloping, possibly terra-cotta roof was originally adjacent to the now brick-filled window.
The 7th Avenue facade of the 1920 expansion is two stories high and three bays wide. Like the original design, the wall is clad in red brick with limestone detailing, and is anchored by a stone base. However, the bricks are now arranged in a Common (or American) Bond, and the newer facade is more rigid and geometric than the original. Double-height limestone enframements surround the first and second-floor rectangular windows.
The first floor has a side bay entrance to the left, with a limestone enframement crowned by a dentillated square pediment. Flat soldier arches border the tops of the first-floor windows. The central window has since been filled in. Plain brick spandrels separate the first and second-floor windows. A smaller brick spandrel forms the space between the entranceway and the window above. A limestone band course tops the three bays. Above the course is a brick frieze with a thin limestone panel with the engraved words “NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY.” A simple limestone cornice and brick parapet complete the 7th Avenue facade. The doors, windows, lanterns, and flagpole are all non-historic.
The spacious, well lit interior retains the original round plaster columns, simple wood window trim, an historic staircase with iron railing, and a fireplace on the second floor.
[i] William A. Prendergast, Comptroller, Record of Real Estate Owned by the City of New York, December 31, 1914, NYC: Department of Finance, Bureau of Municipal Investigation and Statistics, 147.
[iii] “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.