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

A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Best Street Art and Street Food in Austin



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.

Continue reading A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Best Street Art and Street Food in Austin

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

A Much Needed Breath of Fresh Air: Summer Streets 2017



It’s that time of year once again when, on its best days, the public transit system is relegated to a crude pneumatic tube belching hot air through the bowels of the city. We can add to that the now frequent occurrence of trains being delayed or stalling for prolonged periods of time. And then, of course, there were the three frightening derailments that have transpired since March. The truly incredible obsolescence of this integral system has been laid bare, the ugly truth plain for all to see. And no amount of half-measures–duct tape or bubble gum–can fix the mess. Andrew Cuomo’s “Summer of Hell” is in full swing.

Continue reading A Much Needed Breath of Fresh Air: Summer Streets 2017

Bird Hunting in New York City: The Audubon Mural Project



Did you go camping when you were a kid? I did. Do you have fond memories of sleeping in a tent and fishing in a lake? I don’t. Camping taught me one valuable lesson: that I hate camping. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that camping in Malaysia often involves thick jungle, humid air, mosquitoes, leeches, and ghost stories. And sorry, but Asian ghosts are TERRIFYING.

Continue reading Bird Hunting in New York City: The Audubon Mural Project

Falling in Love with Astoria, Starting with Welling Court Mural Project



Not so long ago, I sat across from a colleague at work–for the purposes of this post, let’s call him “Scott”. Scott owned an apartment in Astoria. And I used to tease Scott about his choice of residency mercilessly. This was mostly because Scott had a mouth on him, and making fun of his neighborhood was one of the few things, besides trashing his beloved Yankees, that would get a rise out of him. And I won’t lie, I enjoyed getting a rise out of him quite a bit.

“We’d do Happy Hour up there where you live, Scott”, I’d say, “but my passport has expired”.

Continue reading Falling in Love with Astoria, Starting with Welling Court Mural Project

Blink and You’ll Miss It: Street Art Helps a Neighborhood Say Goodbye at Market Surplus



Things move quickly in New York City. What’s here today may very well be gone tomorrow. You’ll wake up one morning and find this fickle city has reinvented itself overnight. Your favorite bar is now a Pier 1 Imports. That bodega, where you buy your egg and cheese on a roll every morning before work, now serves tall, grande, and venti something-something-somethings. Oh, and that legendary theater where you saw that incredible set by Black Keys? Yeah, that’s gone. I have it on good authority it’s gonna be another high-rise luxury condo project. And so goes, for better or worse, the perpetual metamorphosis of this great metropolis.

Continue reading Blink and You’ll Miss It: Street Art Helps a Neighborhood Say Goodbye at Market Surplus

Sun, Surf and Street Art: A Visit to Coney Art Walls



Coney Island is a destination whose season bookends the New York City summer. While there are the requisite roller coaster rides and bumper cars, it’s so much more than an amusement park. It’s home to the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There’s the beach and the boardwalk. Fireworks on Friday night. And let’s not forget legendary annual events like the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Film Festival. Countless memories are made here.

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Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade



Throngs of visitors come to New York City every year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s such a popular event that hotel rooms along the route have the equivalent of “surge pricing” and still manage to sell out way in advance. That kind of fervor can only mean one thing: New Yorkers will stay very, very far away from it. 

Continue reading Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade