Looks and Books: Why You Should Visit the Jefferson Market Library



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.



Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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”.



Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A close-up view of the balcony
Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The view to the north includes the Empire State Building
Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The view to the south includes the World Trade Center (on a less foggy day)

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

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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

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The staircase leading up to the tower

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. 

Our prior Open House New York experiences can be found here and here.

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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.

Location:
425 6th Ave

Hours:
Mon-Thurs 10 am – 8 pm
Fri-Sat 10 am – 5 pm
Sun 1 pm – 5 pm

Pair it with:

Brunch at Banter

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Jefferson Market Library West Village New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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?

Location:
169 Sullivan St

Hours:
Daily 8 am – 11 pm

– L.

Spirited Away: A Visit to Green-Wood Cemetery



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

Library Way: The New York City Street Every Bibliophile Must Visit



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.

Continue reading Library Way: The New York City Street Every Bibliophile Must Visit

On the Hunt for the Perfect Shot: A Photo Walk with NYC Photo Safari


“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
– Richard Avedon

If my marriage hinged solely on my aptitude as an “Instagram Husband”, I would have become a divorcée long ago. Though I greatly admire the artistry found in photographs, I’ve never been particularly keen to play the architect of their creation or the subject of their inspiration. Much of that can be traced back to my father’s overeagerness with a camera throughout my formidable years.

Continue reading On the Hunt for the Perfect Shot: A Photo Walk with NYC Photo Safari

It’s a Small World After All: A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate



I’m not sure if you can tell from the pictures we’ve posted, but I’m kind of… petite. Height-challenged. Runty. Low-profile. Diminutive.  Short, okay, I’m short.

Other shorties know the troubles I’ve seen.  Trying to discreetly jump to reach something on the top shelf in the grocery store, then finally having to ask for help.  Searching for “cute shoes that provide height yet remain comfortable”. (An urban myth, by the way). Having almost every piece of clothing altered. And standing-room concerts? Forget about it.

Continue reading It’s a Small World After All: A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate

Flatiron Walking Tour



Are you a fan of Serial? How about Making a Murderer? So are we. It seems all the best crime dramas are products of real life. So let us tell you about one that happened in our very own Flatiron district: the sensational murder of acclaimed American architect, Stanford White, by the wealthy Pittsburgh railroad heir, Harry Kendall Thaw.  All you have to do is step back in time to a little over a century ago.  1906, to be exact.

Continue reading Flatiron Walking Tour

Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Rockefeller Center



True story: a few years ago on a late December evening, we arrived in Grand Central after visiting with some friends in Connecticut.  We needed to pick up desserts for a friend’s party and Bouchon Bakery was a favorite, so we thought we’d make a quick run to Rockefeller Center.  Well, we collided with the holiday-loving mob, and it took us an hour to navigate the tiny Plaza.  So now, like all other New Yorkers (well, except Mary Lane at New York Cliche), we avoid Rockefeller Center in December.  

Unless it’s late in the season and/or it’s late at night, and it looks like this.

But, now that the holiday madness has subsided, Rockefeller Center is actually a great place to visit.  Come for the skating rink, the television show tapings or Top of the Rock.  But stay for the history, design and amazing art.



Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Continue reading Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Rockefeller Center

Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part Two



In case you missed it, I kicked off Part One of our Kyoto travel guide here.  Kyoto’s a really fun place to visit, especially in the fall.  Picking up where I left off, here are some of my other must-see destinations:

Arashiyama

Arashiyama has several worthy attractions, but it’s located away from central Kyoto.  It was actually easiest for us to hop on a bus, though the train might be a more convenient option for others.  Since it was further out, we made sure to get an early start.  We dropped by the Arashiyama train station to check out the Kimono Forest (which is accessible all the time so you’re not limited by opening hours) then we headed to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.  

Kyoto Travel Guide - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Kimono Forest features multiple 6.5-foot pillars wrapped with Kyoto Yuzen kimono fabrics

Continue reading Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part Two

Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part One



Travel seems to be a universal love.  Exploring other locales and cultures is inarguably intoxicating.  But it’s not a universal pursuit.  Many people find themselves restricted by time, money and responsibilities, in any number of combinations.  I started traveling while I was in college, and it often required sacrifices in time and comfort to accommodate a minuscule budget.  To see as much of the world as I could, I sat through timeshare presentations and slept on trains.  And my adventures in lodging have included a middle-of-the-night flooding and relocation to a different hotel (and I confess to using this term rather liberally here).

But the challenges pale in comparison to the experiences and the memories.  So despite such calamities as missed connections and lost luggage, I book the next flight and carry on.  Justin and I have eased up on our travel schedule recently because our 17-year-old cat, Chloe, can no longer be left unsupervised.  But with our families being dispersed all over the map, we still find the need to travel, though we now take turns so that someone is home with Chloe at all times.  My recent turn with the compass came in the form of a family trip to Kyoto.

I’ve always been an obsessive planner when it comes to travel, although the tools have improved vastly from my early days.  My friends and I used to lug around heavy guide books and giant maps, and today all we need is a smartphone and a good data connection.  (In that regard, I can’t recommend Project Fi for eligible Android users enough — my access in Japan was seamless.  And no data roaming charges!)  We started with Google Maps, where my brother created a personalized map, threw on all the points of interest in Kyoto then shared it with the family.  I then started a Google Sheet (Google’s version of Excel), also shared it with everyone, and started plotting out our itinerary using the map as a tool to determine which landmarks were within close proximity of each other.  

Kyoto Travel Guide - Mad Hatters NYC

Continue reading Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part One

Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Battery Park



Every once in awhile, Conde Nast Traveler or some other travel magazine will publish an article on “How To Not Look Like a Tourist”.  And without fail, it leads to a spirited discussion in the comments section and on social media.  It’s not difficult to understand this ambivalence towards tourists.  New York City received approximately 58 million visitors last year, and locals simply have to accept that it’s a part of city life.  Yes, you’ll encounter those five tourists who decide to walk side-by-side and take up an entire sidewalk. But 2014 statistics show that visitors generated a record $61.3 billion in overall economic impact, supporting 359,000 tourism related jobs and $21 billion in wages.

Personally, I’ve never shied away from the label and all its connotations.  So I get excited about visiting somewhere new.  And maybe I don’t look like I fit in.  Isn’t that part of the experience?  There’s a different energy buzzing inside you when you first embark on uncharted territory.  Your senses are heightened, ready to devour everything you encounter.  And so I shamelessly wander, camera in hand.  There are certain areas in New York City that feel like designated tourist spots which locals avoid like the plague, but I think it’s fun to visit them every now and then.  It can be invigorating to play tourist in your town, and we did just that recently at Battery Park.

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Continue reading Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Battery Park