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.

Cider House Rules: Apple Picking Near The Big Apple



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?

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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

5 Things To Do In New York City’s Chinatown (Besides Eat Dim Sum)



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:

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Hunger Games: The Best Food Markets in New York City



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.

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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.

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Variety is the Spice of Life: A Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen



It’s not easy to admit, but I was a pretty spoiled child. Not with clothes or toys, but with time. My mother gave us few chores because she was worried that a heavy roster would distract from our education. She tirelessly carted us to and from school plus extra-curriculars and showed up for parent-teacher meetings. She did our laundry and cleaned our rooms. And she cooked. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had warm meals on the table every single day, meals that we still recall fondly (and shamelessly request on home visits).

Continue reading Variety is the Spice of Life: A Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen

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.

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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.

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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