The library's central branch is a striking building combining Art Deco and Scandanavian Modernist elements, completed in 1941 on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. The design was meant to evoke an open book.
Last week, the Brooklyn Public Library central branch celebrated the completion of restoration of their entrance doors, made possible by the Partners in Preservation program, a partnership between the National Trust and American Express.
In 2012, Partners in Preservation chose 40 diverse historic places all over New York City to compete for $3 million in preservation funding by appealing to the public for votes. The Brooklyn Public Library won the popular vote, and with it, $250,000 for their preservation project.
Now, a year later, you can see the fruits of the partnership in completed projects such as these doors. Here's my take on the Brooklyn Public Library's milestone, filtered through Instagram.
The people who created this library system understood that providing beautiful, inspiring public buildings was as important to the community as it was to build robust library collections. The library's entryway is framed with glowing, gilded figures from history and lore. To enter a great library is to pass into other, bigger worlds, and the Brooklyn Public Library's fine entryway draws patrons into that elevated experience like nothing else could.
The library's users are among the most diverse in the country, and it serves as a vibrant center of community. A huge range of places in all five NYC boroughs competed for Partners in Preservation funding, from the Guggenheim and the Apollo, to a small church in Staten Island and a stately historic house museum in the Bronx. But the Brooklyn Public Library won the public vote by appealing to Brooklynites' love for their iconic library.
With Partners in Preservation, the National Trust and American Express sought to help historic places to meet their immediate restoration needs. But by driving them to ask the public for votes, we also wanted to help them build their visibility and base of support, and to engage with people about the importance and relevance of NYC's multifaceted history.
I just moved to Brooklyn in March to staff the National Trust's new New York Field Office. Before speaking at the ribbon-cutting, I snuck away to spend some time in the local history part of the library, poring over historic images of the Brooklyn streets I've been exploring. As a preservationist, I was happy to be part of this celebration of the Brooklyn Public Library's restoration success. As a new resident of Brooklyn, I was particularly glad for the chance to thank the library for caring for this place we all value, and ensuring that it will endure.
Find Roberta on Instagram at robertal7, and the National Trust at presnation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.
Roberta Lane is the Senior Field Officer and Attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s New York City Field Office. She has been with the National Trust since 2006, delivering preservation technical assistance and legal guidance in the field.