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Thread: New York Public Library Restoration

  1. #1
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Default New York Public Library Restoration

    November 12, 2004

    Lions in Winterization


    Robert O'Connell, a historian, works on Fortitude at the New York Public Library.

    Patience and Fortitude are in need of repair.

    These two proud stone lions that guard the Fifth Avenue entrance to the New York Public Library condescended to be sheathed in scaffolding last week. By Monday, they were penned in blue-painted plywood. Fortitude - the more endangered, northward lion - deigned to be the first to be perused, poked and prodded by technicians.

    And so, after 93 years, these sculptured sentries have been enduring the indignity of maintenance work by a team of conservation specialists.

    Incongruously, during the freeze on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the regal Fortitude - which has disdained nearly 10 decades of blizzards, northeasters and ice storms - was swathed embarrassingly in a giant electric blanket. Its mane was warmed up just enough for some new epoxy adhesive to bond with some very old stone.

    Yesterday the lions declined as always to be interviewed, but their expressions roared lofty uninterest. If all goes well, the conservation team will need to work on them for little more than a week.

    "They will return from a brief time of seclusion looking wonderfully refreshed, and not noticeably altered," said Dr. Paul LeClerc, the library's president.

    The $114,000 restoration will not only clean the magisterial sculptures but also address worrisome cracks and the effects of weathering caused by exposure to the elements, to acid rain and to generations of New Yorkers who have climbed upon, fondled and even spray-painted the lions.

    "They are far from being basket cases," said John Griswold, the principal conservator on the project, who ordered the electric blanket. "Basically, they are in good shape."

    Not only are the lions city mascots, but their graphic representation is the logo, and registered trademark, of the library. "They are," Dr. LeClerc said, "our version of the horses of San Marco," in Venice.

    The repairs were ordered after an inspection of exterior sculptures showed the lions in need of attention. More extensive repairs will be made to the library later as part of a comprehensive $40 million-to-$50 million restoration of the exterior of the building, a city and national landmark. "This is arguably the greatest Beaux-Arts building in America," Dr. LeClerc said, "and at the centennial of our opening in 2011, we hope to return it to the city in pristine condition."

    Patience and Fortitude were carved, Mr. Griswold said, from a limestone known as Tennessee pink marble, the same stone on sections of the floor in Grand Central Terminal. Though the lions are now mostly gray from erosion, they are still pinkish on their saddles and tails, where admirers have touched them. (It has long been forbidden to climb on the lions, but children still do it anyway.)

    The lions stand 5 feet 7 inches tall and 11 feet 2 inches long. They were designed by the American sculptor Edward Clark Potter and were carved at the Piccirilli Studio in Mott Haven, the Bronx, in 1911.

    Originally nicknamed Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, for two library founders, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox, the sculptures were dubbed Patience and Fortitude in the 1930's by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in a gesture to the reassuring signature phrase he invoked during his Depression-era radio talks.

    Secure in their belovedness, the lions have survived much, especially during the early 1980's when the library was nearly bankrupt, thanks to a $50 million deficit. Through the years, their hauteur has been officially embellished with seasonal wreaths, Mets and Yankees caps and hard hats. Unofficially, they have been strafed by pigeons, draped with political banners and garlanded with litter.

    Now, erosion has dictated a slight loss of detail in the lions' carving, a roughness in the overall finish and the development of some hairline cracks.

    Furthermore, Fortitude has a crack three-sixteenths of an inch wide in its northward mane that has been enlarged by the freeze-and-thaw cycle. "If we don't stabilize it, a two-foot chunk could fall off," Mr. Griswold said.

    In addition, at its southward mane, Fortitude is now displaying the edges of a two-foot-by-three-foot area of marble patches believed to have been placed there at the time of the sculpture's creation in 1911. The sections of added marble had been installed to correct a flaw in the stone, Mr. Griswold said.

    Although in the end the preservation team is fighting entropy itself, "we can continue to be vigilant in our maintenance," said Mr. Griswold, who is principal and senior conservator of Griswold Conservation Associates in Beverly Hills, Calif. He has previously restored the 13th-century Gothic limestone arches at the Cloisters in Manhattan and the original lead-cored Warner Brothers prop of the Maltese Falcon, the black bird that was hacked at by Sydney Greenstreet in the 1941 movie. (Mr. Griswold was able to discern the actor's knife scratches.)

    The conservators said they were mindful of the recent controversy over the restoration of Michelangelo's David in Florence to mark its 500th anniversary and whether it was cleaned unnecessarily.

    "In conserving the lions, we must preserve their authenticity as well," said Robert C. Bates, an architect overseeing the project who, as a principal with Walter B. Melvin Architects, brought in Mr. Griswold for his expertise. Mr. Bates said that the repairs to the lions must be minimal, and reversible if necessary, and would have to protect not only the sculptor's original artistic intent but also the historic evidence of the lions' public presence.

    Mr. Griswold agreed. "There should be a lot of appropriate caution about altering the lions' appearance at all," he said. "But unlike the David, the lions are outdoors, and there are practical reasons for keeping water out of the cracks and cleaning off the biological growth and dirt particles that could damage the sculpture."

    So the lions' overall layer of New York dirt and grit is being removed gently by whisking with nylon scrub brushes. Then they are being misted with a hand-held steam cleaner. Dirt, moss and mold will be rinsed away with a detergent that leaves no chemically active residue. And to keep ice from enlarging them, hairline cracks will be injected with grout. "But we're not trying to hide them," Mr. Griswold said. "They are good, honest weathering patterns that are part of the history of these sculptures, and tell their story."

    Special attention will be given to the lions' ears and nostrils, where the sulfur in acid rain bonded with the stone's calcium and formed a gypsum crust; the dirt this attracted not only stained the sculptures but also could contribute to further deterioration. As for the marble patches, they will be grouted with a lime-cement mixture with silica sand and finely ground pink glass (to match the color).

    To stabilize the large chunk at the north side of Fortitude, Mr. Griswold's team drilled an eighth-of-an-inch hole into the limestone and inserted a "bore scope" into the mane: this lighted probe provided a magnified image of the deep rock structure about the crack. And so, the team inserted four steel pins into the limestone to affix the chunk of mane to the body of the lion. Then those cracks were grouted as well. Yesterday, the lions' pedestals of Milford granite were being cleaned and repointed.

    Alas, it is the conservators' judgment that seasonal-wreath-wearing must be limited in the future, "because the wreaths allow water, snow and ice to accumulate just where the cracks are," Mr. Griswold said.

    Yesterday, as they worked on Fortitude, the conservators also turned to Patience, the southward lion, which poses the same cleaning issues but little of the ominous cracking.

    "In a way," Mr. Griswold said pensively, "Patience is less interesting."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Default NYPL Map Room Restoration

    One of the greatest rooms in one of the most beautiful buildings in NYC ...

    Restoration Project Reveals Map Room's Vivid Palette

    New York Times
    Dec. 12, 2005

    Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

    Room 117, known as the map room at the New York Public Library, is scheduled to reopen Thursday
    after a $5 million restoration project that has brought back the Beaux Arts luster of the area
    that is home to some of the rarest maps in the world.

    For decades, it has been known simply as Room 117.

    Under a gilt ceiling that has been likened to an inside-out Fabergé egg, an avid circle of initiates has marveled at a glorious 1598 depiction of sea monsters in the waters of the Indies. They have cherished 17th-century visions of the world drawn by the Rembrandts of early cartography. And they have savored a renowned 1668 map that depicts modern-day California as an island, an image now sardonically viewed, by some, as a sign.

    The room's bronze-handled doors were shuttered nine months ago. But Thursday, after a $5 million restoration, the largest map collection in any public library in the world will reopen in its Beaux-Arts jewelry box at the New York Public Library, a room noted for its spectacular corner view of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

    The meticulous reconstruction was intended to return the soaring 7,000-square-foot space to the original 1911 intention of its architects, John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings. But it is also marrying the collection's priceless maps - including many classics from the age of exploration - to new mapping resources of the digital age.

    Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

    Work crews place maps in cabinets
    in the map room.

    Surely Room 117 was in need of a little work. "If there ever was a sleeping beauty, it was the map room," said Dr. Paul LeClerc, the library's president. "Or maybe the analogy is to the ugly duckling." The once-dazzling ceiling had darkened with decades of automobile and heating-fuel particulates since windows were opened before ventilation systems were installed in the 1980's.

    Carved portals of blue-gray marble from Germany became sheathed in city grime. Exquisite carved walnut cartouches depicting griffins and cherubs had been hidden behind industrial shelving. Not only had original chandeliers become coated with dirt, but in the 1960's, a row of chandeliers disappeared, replaced by grayish fluorescents. Even the paint covering the elegant summits of the classic arched windows - a World War II expedient to baffle enemy bombers - has finally been removed.

    Newly restored is the 40-foot-by-35-foot main map-reference reading room, with its 20-foot-tall plaster Beaux-Arts ceiling densely encrusted with designs of fruits, vegetables, dragons and cherubs in its original vivid color palette of gilt, green and vermillion.

    The map room will henceforth be officially known as the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division after the principal sponsors of its reconstruction and endowment. The city of New York also provided $2.5 million, and the federal government $500,000 toward construction, planned by its lead architect, Davis Brody Bond.

    The library's map collection "shows how human beings from one era to another across different cultures come to an understanding of themselves and the universe," Dr. LeClerc said. "It reveals as much about these people as the world they are trying to represent."

    The division's collection of almost 420,000 maps, atlases and cartographic books will have tables wired for laptop plug-ins. The map room - actually two rooms and a mezzanine - will have more than 360 storage shelves, some of them measuring 5 by 7 1/2 feet, 900 map drawers and 1,800 additional drawers in storage rooms under Bryant Park, where the temporary ice rink is situated.

    The reconstruction "has been very labor intensive," said Scott Walker, the project superintendent for some 60 hard hats working for F. J. Sciame Construction Company, "especially putting in the 4-inch-by-4-inch squares of gilt," he said of the reading-room ceiling.

    No public library has more maps, said Alice C. Hudson, chief of the map division, though private collections at Harvard University, the University of Illinois, the American Geographical Society and several other institutions are of comparable size, and the Library of Congress has some five million maps.

    The map division has some of the rarest maps in the world, yet all of them can be studied, and handled, by the public "without giving us your first-born child to see them," Ms. Hudson said. "We do not have a rare-book mentality in this map division." Many of the maps are sheathed in plastic, and most are stored in cabinets. High-tech amenities will also include security improvements that the library declines to discuss. Such enhancements gained new urgency with the recent arrest of a prominent antique map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley III, who was charged in Connecticut with three counts of larceny stemming from a June 8 visit to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

    According to an affidavit, surveillance cameras captured Mr. Smiley removing a map. Mr. Smiley pleaded not guilty on Aug. 9, and has declined to comment on the case, as has his lawyer, and Yale as well.

    The arrest rocked the close-knit universe of mapdom, and sent librarians from New York to London scurrying to their stacks to see if their own collections were intact.

    Ms. Hudson declined to comment about Mr. Smiley directly, and would not say whether her collection was missing any maps, because "the F.B.I. is investigating," she said.

    But beyond security, the division is also well on the way to making the map room "go virtual," said Matt Knutzen, a cartographer who is assistant chief of the division, "bringing the historic collections into the digital age. We hope to bring antiquarian materials to a whole new audience across the world."

    And so, eight new high-speed computers will enable patrons to download map data and retrieve new geographic information systems that will open the division's vast collection to digital enhancement, and facilitate copying on new large-format printers.

    The staff is working to create a geographical search engine - a cartographic user interface, as it were - that could relate maps to other collections of the library, such as the 500,000 images from its collections that have been digitized, including historic building photographs, posters, floor plans and subway construction blueprints.

    Eventually, Mr. Knutzen explained, a user would be able to designate a location such as a tenement in which an ancestor once lived, then retrieve vintage images of the property as well as published articles, Census records and diary entries. The restoration is part of a $100-million, decades-long project to transform the interiors and exteriors of the library in time for the 2011 centennial rededication of the building.

    Many of the division's maps are worth six figures, and one of the collection's venerable map sets created by the family of Willem Janszoon Blaeu - the aforementioned cartographic Rembrandts - has fetched more than $1 million at auction, "but you cannot put a value on this collection," said Ms. Hudson, who has been chief for 24 years.

    About 80 percent of patrons, she said, use 20 percent of the collection - mostly New York City maps, from its extensive archive. But the division acquires maps from around the world.

    The collection, from the 16th century to the present, spans classic engravings, vellum heirlooms, manuscript maps, cemetery maps, railroad maps, insurance maps, harbor charts, computer-produced cartography charts and CD-ROM's.

    The oldest map, from 1545, depicts North and South America; the newest is a 2005 map of the European Union.

    The division has its roots in the establishment of the Astor Library and the Lenox Library in the 19th century. In the 1920's, the photographer Walker Evans worked as a page in the map room. After Pearl Harbor, the Army arrived looking for maps of Japan; immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, engineers and architects began searching for maps to help untangle the blasted infrastructure at ground zero.

    Through the years, its users have included archaeologists, historians, site-study consultants, preservation specialists and genealogists as well as writers researching novels, plays and film scripts.

    One patron arrived with his great grandfather's journal; librarians enabled him to confirm its description of a Texas cattle drive in the 1860's by finding maps of old livestock routes.

    Then there are those who take the name of the room literally enough to step up to the reference desk "and ask, 'Can I get the crosstown bus over to the U.N. here?' " Ms. Hudson said.

    "If the New York Public Library is the temple of New York, then the map room is the holy of holies," said Philip Lopate, Adams Professor of English at Hofstra University. He used the collection extensively to research his 2004 book, "Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan."

    Dr. LeClerc said that new technology would not replace what he called the library's historic mission, "its continuing commitment to the acquisition, care and presentation of physical objects," he said. "Our collections will continue to grow, as will access to electronic information."

    But will technology make the map room unnecessary? "You need to be here," Dr. Hudson said on a recent afternoon in the reading room. "We've had more people coming in because they've seen the maps on our website. There will always be people handling our maps."

  4. #4

  5. #5


    NY Post
    September 21, 2006


    The Associated Press

    The New York Public Library will get $5 million in state money to restore its historic facade on Fifth Avenue, Gov. Pataki announced yesterday.

    The money comes in addition to the $10 million the state already provided for the project.

    Years of weathering and acid rain have left the marble facade and roof in danger of leaks and falling pieces of stone, and in need of repair and cleaning.

    Copyright 2006 NYP Holdings, Inc.

  6. #6


    A gorgeous building and a great library. Years ago I did research here three times a week; because the books don't circulate I always found what I was looking for. Staff: efficient and knowledgable, but perhaps not overly courteous.

  7. #7


    acid rain?

  8. #8

  9. #9
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    NYC - Downtown


    NY Public Library Morphs into a Big Plush Toy

    December 4, 2007
    by Pete

    Passers-by on the sidewalks of Fifth and 42nd are asking themselves,"WTF
    is up with that?" The source of their confusion is the flagship building of the
    New York Public Library, which looks like it's getting ready for a hook-up
    with that nasty old Stay Puft man. Not since Christo and Jeanne-Claude
    draped Central Park in acres of saffron has NYC seen so much fabric as is
    now hanging over the Library's facade.

    The Fifth Avenue facade under wraps.

    The purpose of this tasteful wrap-job is to keep brittle bits of marble from
    falling off the facade. It's part of a $15 Million dollar facelift which will be
    completed by the Library's 100th birthday in 2011. The original blocks of
    white Vermont marble came from the Norcross-West quarry in Dorset. Good
    thing there's more where it came from because there's no telling how much
    it will take to get the job done. Until the work's over, all we can say is,
    "Better keep Arlene away from this big plush baby!"

    The Library, in better days.

    The crumbling north facade.

    An expanse of Vermont marble awaits repair along the south facade.

    The Library, back when things were black and white (L), and under construction (R).

    An early 20th Century shot of the Norcross & West Quarry near Dorset, Vermont.

    · A Bad Day in Midtown []
    · It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christo [Curbed]
    · Arlene's Awkward Plush Toy Staging [Curbed]


  10. #10


    What? It's going to look like this till 2011?

  11. #11
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Yeehah !!! A treasure trove of images (hanks to an NYPL LINK from a CURBED commenter):

    Nice original constructoporn via NYPL website ...

  12. #12


    Associated Press
    December 20, 2007

    Landmark Public Library to get a facelift

    The main New York Public Library is undergoing a three-year restoration of its facade, stairs and plaza.

    The project is expected to be completed in time for the building's centennial in 2011.

    One goal of the effort is to restore the landmark Beaux-arts building next to Bryant Park to its original white marble grandeur.

    Another is to install lighting to make the building a nighttime attraction.

    The $50 million restoration has already begun: Some of the building is shrouded with netting and the first scaffolding is expected to appear in February.

    The marble building was completed in 1911 after 12 years of construction.

    Copyright © 2007 Associated Press

  13. #13
    Forum Veteran macreator's Avatar
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    East Midtown


    Quote Originally Posted by BigMac View Post
    Another is to install lighting to make the building a nighttime attraction.

    That's great news! We need more or our architectural jewels lit up at night -- it really adds a lot to the City, I think.

  14. #14
    Banned Member
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    I like the slipcover. Maybe I can get that crew to do my sofa.

  15. #15
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Interesting that none of the articles have mentioned the proposed "rooftop additions" for the NYPL building.

    A hearing at LPC is scheduled for January 8 ...

    08-1071 - Block 1257, lot 1-

    476 Fifth Avenue - New York Public Library - Individual Landmark

    A Beaux-Arts style library building designed by Carrere & Hastings and built in 1898-1911.

    Application is to construct two rooftop additions.

    Zoned C5-3

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