Monday, August 11, 2008

Jefferson Market Library

The Jefferson Market Library, originally a courthouse, was designed in the Victorian Gothic style and was erected between 1875 and 1877 alongside an adjacent prison and market. It cost $360,000 to build and housed a police court, a civil court, and a basement where prisoners were held before they headed off to jail.


The building was continuously lauded for its unique and splendid architecture and was often touted as one of the most beautiful buildings in the country at the turn of the century. The courthouse was the site of a number of famous trials, including the murder trial of Harry Thaw, who was accused of killing architect Stanford White. The famous trial, which also involved chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, became the subject for E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime, which was eventually turned into an award-winning Broadway musical.

After decades of hosting a number of other sensational cases, the Jefferson Market Library became New York City’s Police Academy. The building closed its doors in 1958.

After several years of deterioration, a plan was hatched to demolish this breathtaking building, which by this time lacked its original splendor. Concerned Greenwich Village residents, however, saved it from the wrecking ball, and by 1965, plans were in place to turn the old courthouse into a branch of the New York Public Library system. It opened in 1967, with its “cut stone faces and flowers, spiral stairs, soaring stained glass windows, [and] the feeling, form and sensibility of another age.” (Ada Huxtable, architectural critic, New York Times, 1967)

19 comments:

Meead S. said...

Great shot! Nice buidling.

Thanks for your visit and comments Ken.

Josy said...

Heh-- The friend who got me into daily photoblogging is an architectural conservationist (or got his degree in that, anyway).

Not being one for dates and histories... I am glad they saved the building, 'cos it sure makes for a pretty picture. :)

kjpweb said...

That is one beautiful building! Hard to imagine anyone in his right mind would think of tearing something like that down. But then again - we were probably talking politics and greed then, huh?
Cheers, Klaus

sonia a.m. said...

Nice pictures and very beautiful architecture!

Hilda said...

I am glad they didn't demolish that gorgeous building! I love the wrought iron railing around the clock tower!

Mary Jo said...

Really splendid building and info!

ken mac said...

thanks everyone, Eliane: what a character!

Ming the Merciless said...

Is this the building that is across the street from the old Balducci supermarket?

It has a beautiful garden on the south side of the library.

ken mac said...

that's the place!

D said...

What a magnificent building. I'm so glad it was preserved. The fact that it is now full of books makes it even more inviting!

Virginia said...

That is a grand old building. Thanks for sharing it rich history.

• Eliane • said...

I love this building and I didn't know it was a library. Nice!
It has something a little Russian about it. Or is it bysantine. Ah well,... you get my point.

Lynette said...

Thank goodness this splendid building still exists and serves.

Enjoyed browsing your recent posts.

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