Preservation Magazine, Winter 2017

A Stunning Makeover At The New York Public Library's Main Branch

photo by: Max Touhey Photography

In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Winter 2017.

After a plaster rosette in the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library’s Main Branch building fell 52 feet to the floor one night in May of 2014, library officials decided it was time to inspect the football field–length ornamental ceiling.

The resulting restoration of the 1911 space, executed by engineering and architecture firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, necessitated repairing cracks; reinforcing 900 plaster elements in the reading room and the adjacent Bill Blass Public Catalog Room with steel cables; and re-creating a 27-by-33-foot mural by artist James Wall Finn in the public catalog room. (The original mural had lost much of its paint to poor patch jobs and repairs in the past.)

The $12 million project took about two years to complete and required closing both rooms for safety reasons. The reading room (shown at top) and public catalog room re-opened to the public on October 5, 2016.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

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