Views from the Digital Collections: The 42nd Street Library

By Carrie McBride, Communications
May 23, 2022

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: ps_ar_59

After nearly a decade of construction on the former site of the Croton Reservoir, the main branch of The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets opened to the public on May 24, 1911. More than 30,000 people visited on the first day alone and it wasn't long before the Beaux-Arts structure became one of New York's most recognized and beloved buildings and earned the moniker the "People's Palace."

Now named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (SASB), it has served researchers and readers from around the world, hosted tourists angling for a glimpse of the spectacular Rose Main Reading Room, and found its way into movies, television, and fiction. 

Our research librarians have compiled an online LibGuide about the 42nd Street Library including materials for researching the Library’s collections, institutional past, architecture, and role in New York City since 1911. 

---> Explore the Guide: History of the 42nd Street Library

Below you can view some of the many images of this memorable building that are part of NYPL's Digital Collections—a free database of nearly one million items including prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, video, and more.

More recommended reading:

Croton Water Reservoir, New York City, 1850.

Augustus Fay. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 54863

Croton reservoir in process of demolition, 1900.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 465501

Drawing of the library, showing the Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street facades.

Carrère & Hastings. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 489418

Carrère and Hastings workshop, 1905.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 489417

Exterior marble work: the Fifth Avenue facade, 1905.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 489510

Library Lion in Potter's studio in Connecticut, 1910.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: ps_mss_831

A sectional view of the New York Public Library, 1911.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 805999

Men dusting books.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1153324

Circulation Department, Central building, ca. 1910s.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 115815

Main Reading Room

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1153329

New York National Guard troops march on Fifth Avenue before reviewing stands on the steps of the New York Public Library, August 30, 1917. In the stands are Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, former president Theodore Roosevelt, other local dignitaries and relatives of the troops.

Wide World Photos, Inc. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 806141

Armistice Day Parade past the Library, 1922.

Ewing Galloway. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 731123F

New York Public Library Central Information (catalog room).

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1153338

Room 100, including card catalogs.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1153322

Book cases in Bryant Park, behind the Central building, 1930s.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 434219

Central Building Stacks

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1153340

New Yorkers on the Library steps.

Morris Huberland. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5379684

The Deborah, Jonathan F. P., Samuel Priest, and Adam R. Rose Main Reading Room at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, The New York Public Library's main building on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, 2012.

Jonathan Blanc. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5013687

Exterior of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, The New York Public Library's main building on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, 2012.

Jonathan Blanc. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5013689