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.