Walking around the West Village, you may have noticed the beautiful building as in the photo below. This is the Jefferson Market Library, formerly the Jefferson Market Courthouse a Victorian Gothic library located between Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Avenue, and Tenth Street.
It’s a building in Victorian Gothic style, and it’s one of the best libraries you can find in New York City. It was designed by architects Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux.
This building had a fascinating prior life! Before seeing why let’s state here some interesting facts about this library.
4 Facts about the Victorian Gothic library in the West Village:
3. It was supposed to be torn down in 60s. That didn’t happen and today it’s part of the New York Public Library.
4. It’s today a National Historic Landmark.
A little bit of history
The tall tower was apparently built first, around 1833. Around the tower, there used to be what was known as the Jefferson Market, crowded with merchants’ stands. The city tore down both the tower and the market structures to build a new courthouse.
The commission for the new courthouse went to the firm of Vaux and Withers, and the project cost the city of New York city almost $360,000.
The beautiful brick-arched basement (now the Reference Room) was used as a holding area for prisoners on their way to jail or trial. You hear it right, a prison! This is how the Reference Room currently looks like.
By 1945, through redistricting, the court was no longer held at Jefferson Market, and by 1959, the building had become home only to pigeons and rats. It was considered such an architectural eyesore the city planned to knock it down and erect an apartment building.
In 1967, just under a decade after being saved from demolition through community efforts and years of renovation, the building was reopened as a New York Public Library branch.