This morning, the New York Public Library reopened two historic rooms at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street, Bryant Park after two years of renovation – the Rose Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room. The efforts began after a 16 pound plaster rosette fell from the Rose Reading Room’s ceiling, 52 feet up, overnight in the May of 2014. A thorough inspection then took place and although it was determined the ceilings were structural sound, the library decided to undertake an extensive renovation regardless.
The rosette that fell is in this shot
The Rose Reading Room first opened in 1911, with the rest of the Stephen A. Shwarzman Building. It is 78 feet wide by 297 feet long, nearly the length of a football field. The renovation of both rooms, “spared no expense,” said the President of the New York Public Library this morning at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Not only was the fallen rosette repaired, all 900 plaster elements in both rooms were reinforced with steel cables.
A ceiling mural by James Wall Finn in the Bill Blass Room was completely recreated by EverGreene Architectural Arts, the firm behind the restoration of the Brooklyn Kings Theatre and the Theodore Roosevelt Mural at the American Museum of Natural History. The mural had not been restored in the 1990s, like the ceiling of the Rose Reading Room and, according to the library, “a fine arts conservator determined that it sustained irreparable damage, loss of original paint, discoloration, patch jobs and unsophisticated over-paint.” The chandeliers of the Reading Room were also restored and installed with LED lights.
Additionally, as reported on previously, the library also installed a state-of-the-art “book train” to more efficiently move books from the underground stacks to the reading room, replacing the previous conveyor belt system. The underground storage area was also expanded, with a new capacity of 4.3 million volumes. This is a happy conclusion to the controversy that arose from a previous plan to relocate the stacks off site. The library now estimates it can fulfill 90% of research requests with materials located on site.
We also inquired about the fate of the pneumatic tube system, which previously carried down research requests and was part of the library when it opened in 1911. According to Matthew Knutzen, director of the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Division at the library, the infrastructure for the pneumatic tube system is still in place but it has not been in operation since the 1980s.
The pneumatic tube system, “labeled ZIP TUBE.”
The two rooms opened up to the public today at 10am. Here are some additional photos of the Rose Reading Room renovation.
Next, read about the Top 10 Secrets of the New York Public Library. Check out a recent exhibition on a photo project that documented all the branches of the NYPL and Brooklyn Library.