With change constantly occurring around us, Justin and I often find ourselves in a perpetual state of FOMO. There’s always something shiny and new to check out in New York City, from towering new structures to pop-up exhibits. But that also means that we sometimes take the stuff that’s been around for a while for granted. Case in point: the Jefferson Market Library.
The West Village is as picturesque a neighborhood as one can imagine, with tree-lined streets, dreamy townhouses and cute cafes. The Jefferson Market Library’s beautiful Victorian Gothic facade fits right in. We’ve passed it a million times, admiring its beauty in passing, but never really taking note.
But the Jefferson Market Library is a structure that’s rich with history (including some salacious bits!), and it tells a tale of reinvention that seems perfectly at home in New York City. Here are some fun facts about the library:
1. One of its architects also designed Central Park
The Jefferson Market Library was originally a courthouse. It was designed by architects Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux. Calvert Vaux worked with Frederick Law Olmsted to create Central Park, Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park and Morningside Park, among many others.
2. It has a scandalous past
We touched briefly on the “Trial of the Century” involving the murder of architect Stanford White by multimillionaire Harry Kendall Thaw in our Flatiron post. Guess where that Trial of the Century took place? Right here at the Jefferson Market Library in 1906. The grounds also housed a Women’s Detention Center from 1929-1973, which hosted Mae West for a night when she was arrested on obscenity charges for her Broadway play called… wait for it… “Sex”.
3. E. E. Cummings saved it
The court became defunct due to redistricting and the property went through some changes before finally being abandoned and falling into disrepair. The city planned on demolishing it and replacing it with an apartment building, but locals fought it. One of its champions was none other than E. E. Cummings, who happened to live directly across the street.
4. It’s home to a 14-foot spider
Each year during the Village Halloween Parade, a giant spider crawls up and down the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Library. The spider has been part of the parade since its creation, but took extended periods off as the parade underwent changes. Most recently, it was on hiatus from 2010-2011 due to library renovations. Puppeteer Basil Twist took that time to create a brand new spider–with the help of high school students–using materials scavenged off the streets of New York City. Unfortunately Hurricane Sandy thwarted the new spider’s debut, but it returned to the parade in 2013 and has been a fixture ever since.
5. You can climb the clock tower once a year
The Jefferson Market Library has participated in Open House New York for over ten years. During that weekend, you can climb the clock tower to meet the spider and enjoy magnificent views of the city. Fair warning, though: it’s 149 steps to the top, and the staircases are very narrow. On our recent adventure, my fear of heights kicked in and I threw in the towel midway. And it’s fortunate that it did, because the tiny, open balcony would’ve given me nightmares. If you have any similar fears, sit this one out.
Pro Tip: The Jefferson Market Library is an open access site, meaning no advance reservations are required. But it only allows access for a very short window, so be prepared to come early and wait in line. Due to the narrow staircases, the traffic up and down is slow so plan for additional time accordingly.
This branch of the New York Public Library has been active since 1967. You can visit the working library every day of the week for books, computer use and a host of events such as readings, classes and movies. Don’t miss the amazing garden as well, a beautiful oasis in the middle of the bustling city.
425 6th Ave
Mon-Thurs 10 am – 8 pm
Fri-Sat 10 am – 5 pm
Sun 1 pm – 5 pm
Pair it with:
Brunch at Banter
You don’t have to take more than ten steps from the Jefferson Market Library to find yourself a great restaurant. But we have a penchant for cute Australian cafes with great coffee and avocado smash, so we walked just a tiny bit further to Banter. If you can get it, grab a seat on the outdoor patio. That way you can enjoy your meal while fantasizing about living in one of the colorful townhomes across the street. West Village brunching is all about #goals, amirite?
169 Sullivan St
Daily 8 am – 11 pm
On any given Saturday morning you might find us at the Union Square Greenmarket, standing amongst the manic throng of shoppers, perusing the countless stands overflowing with fresh produce, eggs, meats, cheeses, and flowers. Did you ever wonder where they all come from? I did. And the answer is surprising. These stands represent just a fraction of a staggering number of small farms in the tri-state area. And guess what? Many of them welcome visitors to their orchards throughout the year for pick-your-own fruits and vegetables.
Nothing embodies the seasonal changing of the guard from Summer to Fall quite like going apple picking. With our obvious love for all things fall and all things food, this sits squarely in our wheelhouse. But with countless options and even more contradictory reviews, we found ourselves at an impasse: Where should we go?
You know how some people celebrate their Birthday Month? We celebrate Halloween Month. It’s our favorite holiday, hands down. I’m a horror movie aficionado, and Lynn’s a huge costume buff. (She hasn’t really delved into that for herself as much as she’d like, believe me, but she adores watching other people do it really, really well.) We’re always excited to attend fall favorites like Brew in the Zoo, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, and the Halloween Dog Parade. So when our friend and fellow blogger Lauren of Girl in Gotham City asked if we’d like to hang out at Green-Wood, we couldn’t say yes fast enough. It’s long been on our list of things to do. So, let Halloween Month commence! Continue reading Spirited Away: A Visit to Green-Wood Cemetery
Every time we head to Chinatown, Justin has a minor anxiety attack. The crowded streets and the slow foot traffic drive him crazy, but we still find ourselves there with remarkable regularity. It’s impossible to stay away from this section of Lower Manhattan because it simply has so much to offer. And we’re not just there to eat, either. Here are some things you can (and should) do in Chinatown:
“Keep Austin Weird” was a slogan created to promote small businesses in Austin in 2000, but it’s become a mantra Austinites live by. And now that we’ve had the opportunity to visit this one-of-a-kind city, we can see why they claim it with pride. We’ve talked about the incredible street art scene as well as the robust coffee, art and food options in Austin. But for a true taste of what makes this city stand apart, we suggest you take some time out of your visit to check these out:
New Yorkers suffer exorbitant rents and ridiculous commutes, but we get amazing pizza and Central Park in return. We are masters of the trade off. So when you propose an escape from the city, a skeptical New Yorker might ask, “What exactly am I giving up my breakfast bagels for?” Well, if you’re headed to Austin, the answer is: A LOT.
Austin has long been a dream destination of ours, so we wanted to check off as many items from our bucket list as we could on our first trip. When considering accommodations our priority was clear: location, location, location. Downtown Austin is the place to be, but the options can be overwhelming. Choosing the right home away from home can make all the difference, so here’s how to make sure you pick the right one for you.
If character is a collection of distinct qualities, Austin has character in spades. And one of the qualities we particularly loved in our recent visit to this vibrant Texas city was its embarrassing wealth of art. While there were incredible museums and parks, we are firm believers that some of the most important art can be found in public spaces. The pieces are often in unexpected locations: back alleys and vacant lots, across the walls of abandoned and neglected buildings or commissioned by neighborhood businesses. It’s the kind of art that viscerally reflects the rich histories and diversity of cultures of the communities in which they are located.
Anyone living in New York City will probably have noticed the proliferation of food markets over the past few years. And while they may seem fairly new, similar concepts have flourished for a long, long time in Southeast Asia. It seems ripe for the current climate though, as foodies move toward more casual (and let’s face it, more Instagrammable) dining options and restaurateurs move toward mitigating risk and reducing overhead.
I get it. It’s disorienting. Those impossibly tall buildings. All those signs and flashing neon lights. Cars honking. People everywhere. It’s so easy to lose your head in the clouds. But do so at your own peril. You may just miss something. There’s treasure here in this city. And sometimes that treasure is right below your feet.