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Seward Park Library

Seward Park Library


On June 26, 2013 the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the New York Public Library, Seward Park Branch, 192 East Broadway. The library is one of four surviving tall buildings along East Broadway. It is one of two on the north side, the other being the Bialystoker Home.

In her book, The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited, Joyce Mendelsohn has this to say about the library:

Seward Park Branch, New York Public Library
192 East Broadway (Babb, Cook & Welch, architects, 1909; restoration, Kevin Horn + Andrew Goldman Architects, 2002-04)

This is one of the Carnegie libraries, a network of 67 branches of the New York Public Library funded by a gift of $5.2 million in 1901 from retired industrialist Andrew Carn­egie. (Two of its architects, George Babb and Walter Cook, were designers of the Carnegie mansion on Fifth Avenue and Ninety-first Street.) The history of the library can be traced to 1886 when a group of philanthropic German Jews formed the Aguilar Free Library Society, named in honor of Grace Aguilar, an Anglo-Jewish writer of Sephardic descent. The society opened 4 small free libraries around the city. In 1890 it purchased a plot of land at this site and moved into a small structure that was replaced in 1909 by the current 3-story limestone Renaissance-inspired building. It is one of the largest of the neighborhood branch libraries in the city and was built with an outdoor reading room on the roof over­looking Seward Park. The library has always been one of the busiest in the city. Among its famous patrons was Leon Trot­sky,who spent time here when he lived in New York in 1917.

Historic Photo

Included in the collection are more than 200 volumes of Judaica in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish as well as clippings, pamphlets, photographs, and other materials in the Lower East Side Heritage Collection, which is open by appoint­ment only. Today the library serves an increasingly diverse community and circulates books in English, Chinese, Span­ish, Russian, Hebrew, and Yiddish. It offers reading and writ­ing classes for English-speaking adults, English-language classes for speakers of other languages, book discussion groups, and special programs for children.

A $6.3 million renovation moved the main entrance to a handsome new one facing Seward Park, restored original furniture and elements of the interior, and brought twenty­-first-century technology into the library with wireless In­ternet service and computers with high-speed Internet ac­cess and special research databases. Central air conditioning, replacing whirring ceiling fans, was integrated into the building’s original architecture. The installation of elevators and an outdoor entrance ramp has made the library accessible.

For more information about the library, click here.

Read the Designation Report.