Researchers and library lovers are rejoicing over news that, after a two-year, $12-million restoration, the New York Public Library is ready to unveil the historic Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Catalog Room on October 5. The work was prompted in 2014 when a foot-wide ornamental rosette fell 52 feet from the ceiling, making it the first renovation to the space since 1998. Work to the beloved area of the library was completed ahead of schedule by the Tishman Construction Corporation, and included upgrades that not only stabilized all 900 rosettes, but also fitted chandeliers with LED lights and recreated the ceiling mural by James Wall Finn in the catalog room. While Finn’s other murals in the reading room had been restored in the 1990s, the catalog room piece was found to be beyond repair due to paint loss, discoloration, and patch jobs. EverGreene Architectural Arts were tasked with recreating the mural.
In order to complete the restoration, the historic oak desks with fitted brass lamps had to be painstakingly covered to prevent damage. Images during the construction highlight the remarkable transformation the space underwent, and not everything was happening above ground. At the same time, in order to keep the majority of research materials available in Manhattan, the library was moving materials into a new, $23 million state-of-the-art storage facility below Bryant Park. The facility will hold over 4.3 million research volumes that will arrive up to the Rose Main Reading Room via a $2.6 million modern conveyor system.
The reading room, which first opened in 1911, will be open to the public during regular library hours and on daily tours of the Schwarzman Building at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. To celebrate the opening, the library is holding a photographic exhibition with more than 75 images that capture the journey to preserve the building. This free exhibition is on until October 9, 2016.
All images via Max Touhey Photography