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The Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library is one of the most spectacular branch libraries in New York City. The library was constructed in 1877 as the Third Judicial District Courthouse with an adjoining jail. The building was designed by Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in the Victorian Gothic style. Its name was derived from the market originally located on the site which was named after Thomas Jefferson in the early 1830s. A Douglas Smyth designed masonry market building was erected in 1883 next to the courthouse. Both it and the jail were demolished in 1927 for the construction of the Art Deco Women’s House of Detention.

By 1945, Jefferson Market, no longer served as a courthouse and the building was utilized by various City agencies including the New York City Police Academy, which  supposedly  used it for riot training. The NYPD left the building in 1958, and within a year, pigeons and rats called the former Jefferson Market Courthouse home. The City wanted to knock the building down but local residents including, Margot Gayle, Philip Wittenberg, Lewis Mumford, E.E. Cummings and Maurice Evans protested this decision. In 1961, Mayor Robert F. Wagner announced that the building would be preserved by converting it into a branch of the New York Public Library. The library opened in 1967 after a two year conversion and restoration process. In 1973, the adjoining House of Detention was demolished and a community garden took its place.

After viewing these stained glass windows, it is not surprising that the Jefferson Market Courthouse was named one of the ten most beautiful buildings in the United States by a group of architects in the 1880s.

7 Comments

  1. […] to the Jefferson Market Library on Greenwich Ave. between 6th Ave. and West 10th St., this garden stands on what once was a prison […]

  2. […] of William Simon. Carved details encrust the entrance and accumulate under the beautiful stained-glass windows and elsewhere around the building. The water fountain is decorated with reliefs depicting a weary […]

  3. Lisa Bernhard says:

    Great pictures! These windows can really be seen now that the scaffolding (up for what, 10 years?) has been removed. They were designed by an English stained glass artist, Charles Booth. He also designed windows for Grace Church on Broadway, as well as Cavalry Church on Park Avenue South. Although not much is known about him, the Jefferson Market Library has a folder on him in their archives.

  4. Georgia says:

    Obviously I am not very observant — I’ve been to the library a few times and missed these gorgeous windows.

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