Last week, we came across illustrator James Gilliver Hancock’s series of playful block elevations titled “All the Buildings in New York.” It turns out this impulse to sketch block upon block of New York’s architecture has been around for quite some time. In 1899, the Mail & Express newspaper company published a graphic journey down Manhattan’s Broadway in a book called A Pictorial description of Broadway now archived at the New York Public Library.
The stroll down Broadway 112 years ago reveals just how much New York has evolved over the past century. As the NYPL says, “The result, as you can see here, is a 19th century version of Google’s Street View, allowing us to flip through the images block by block, passing parks, churches, novelty stores, furriers, glaziers, and other businesses of the city’s past.”
At the turn of the last century, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie offered grants for 67 library branches in New York City, a boon for book-lovers across the five boroughs. More than a century later, however, many of these aging buildings are more than a little dog-eared, and the New York Public Library has been working to reclaim them as bright community hubs. The latest of these spaces to be revived, the St. Agnes Library on the Upper West Side, is back in shape after a two-year, $9.5 million restoration that library officials see as a model for the system’s Carnegie legacy. Originally designed by the New York firm Babb, Cook and Willard, the 1906 building had suffered typical alterations: Dropped ceilings occluded architectural details, and skylights were covered over, dimming interior reading rooms. Read More