The campus of Bronx Community College is the only community college in America designated a National Historic Landmark, and for good reason. The college’s monumental Beaux-Arts buildings, sprawling lawns, and scenic views that overlook the Harlem River make it a place worthy of recognition. The dazzling centerpiece of the campus is the Gould Memorial Library, an architectural masterpiece designed by renowned 19th-century New York City architect Stanford White. The opulent library building, completed in 1900, has fallen into disrepair in recent decades due to limited funding and usage, but the college hopes to restore the Library to its former grandeur, and you can help.
Tour the Gould Memorial Library
Join Untapped New York Insiders on a tour of the Gould Memorial Library on June 13th led by the great-grandson of Stanford White, Samuel G. White, FAIA., a practicing architect in New York City and a founding partner of PBDW Architects. This exclusive tour is free for Untapped New York Insiders. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today and get your first month free with code JOINUS.
The Gould Memorial Library consists of the main library building and an arcaded terrace that wraps around it containing the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. White was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome for its design. Inside the library, the spacious rotunda served as the main reading room. The rotunda is lined with 16 Corinthian columns made of rare Connemara Irish green marble. The room is topped by a soaring dome with an oculus at the center. On the balcony level, statues of the Greek Muses peer down at the Italian marble mosaic tiles of the floor multiple stories below. At the mezzanine level, the rotunda is encircled by Tiffany-stained glass windows.
Outside in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, there are bronze busts of leaders in business, theology, music, medicine, law, and invention. Along the 630-foot open-air monument, you can spot famous Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Hamilton, John Philip Sousa, and the Wright Brothers. There is room for 102 bronze sculptures, but only 98 of those slots are filled. The last elections for inductees took place in 1976 when Clara Burton, Luther Burbank, and Andrew Carnegie were added.
NYU built more modern library spaces for its students in the 1950s, but the Gould Memorial Library remained in use until the campus was converted to Bronx Community College in 1973. At that time, the City as a whole was suffering from a financial crisis. A lack of funding for the upkeep of the library led to the start of its decline. Today, students use a new library building designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Inside the Gould Memorial Library, an auditorium below the main reading room is still used for special events and lectures.
Despite decades of neglect, the future of the Gould Memorial Library looks bright. The Bronx Community College Foundation hopes to convert the underused library space into a Center for Community Development and Civic Engagement. The goal of the space is to “serve as a bridge for BCC to the Bronx, State of New York, broader United States, and beyond,” where individuals and groups can “address local and national issues; provide training to non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and discuss topics affecting the neighborhood, city, and state.” Before that can happen though, there is a lot of restoration work that must be done.
Thanks to elected and government officials in New York State and New York City, over $20 million were donated to the restoration of the Dome and Oculus, which was completed this spring. The funds also helped to add a second egress in the Rotunda. In addition, the Bronx Community College Foundation is working with elected officials to install an elevator to make the building accessible to all. Nearly $8 million has already been raised, but there is still a long way to go. The original estimate to repair the Gould Memorial Library, was about $100M in hard and soft costs. You can donate to the Save the Gould Memorial Library Fund by making a donation online here, or by sending a check made out to Bronx Community College Foundation to 2155 University Avenue, Philosophy Hall 26, Bronx, New York 10453.
Join Untapped New York Insiders for an exclusive tour of the Library and the Hall of Great Americans on June 13th. On this tour, you’ll learn more about the restoration efforts and history of the building while you walk through the stunning spaces yourself!
Tour the Gould Memorial Library
Next, check out 10 Secrets of Bronx Community College i