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

Open House by Liz Glynn at Central Park



I remember when I first read and fell in love with The Great Gatsby, and I’m sure you do too.  Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan captured our collective imaginations, and we continue to romanticize the period described so vividly by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  However, the term “Gilded Age” originates from Mark Twain’s book of the same name, which was a scathing commentary on the excesses of the time.  “Gilded Age” alluded to the shiny veneer that masked underlying poverty and social ills.  California artist Liz Glynn bring us a fresh interpretation of this juxtaposition in her latest piece, Open House, for the Public Art Fund.  




Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
William C. Whitney Mansion at 871 Fifth Avenue

Continue reading Open House by Liz Glynn at Central Park

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

Exploring the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church via Open House New York



We walk through these streets every day, on our way to work, on our return home, but above the roar of street traffic, the glaring lights, the high tide of daydreaming tourists and jaded daily commuters, we hardly notice that it’s lined on all sides by an imposing steel, stone and concrete forest. These brownstone row houses, brick tenements and glass and steel skyscrapers are the trees of our great city.

The common expression is “couldn’t see the forest for the trees”, but in our case, that’s not the dilemma. All we see is the forest. So what’s it like to break the treeline, to venture into the woods, to examine a grand Methuselah up close and personal? Well, Open House New York offers an answer to that question.

Open House New York follows in the footsteps of a program pioneered in London, in which participants are offered “unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York and to the people who help design, build, and preserve the city”. This incredible opportunity is available through programming throughout the year, but also during the annual Open House New York weekend.

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

Continue reading Exploring the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church via Open House New York