SPOTLIGHT: Jefferson Market Library

Jefferson Market Library has been and continues to be an iconic venue within Greenwich Village history. This Victorian Gothic architectural masterpiece was designed by architects Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in 1875-77 as a courthouse with an adjacent prison and market. Landmarked within the Greenwich Village historic district, the campus has undergone multiple transformations, but has always had a prominent role in the cultural progression of New York City.
 
Historic Jefferson Market Courthouse
Current Jefferson Market 
Library

The main building of the campus, voted one of the ten most beautiful in America by a poll of architects in the 1880s, was erected to house a civil court (second floor), a police court (first floor), and a holding area for prisoners (basement), while the famous bell tower, still existing today, was used to summon volunteer firemen in the area. The courthouse was involved with a number of significant cases, including the murder trial of Harry Thaw, accused of killing architect Stanford White, and the trial of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory laborers who were detained for going on strike to obtain workers' rights (prior to the tragic fire of 1911). By the mid-1920s, the market and co-ed prison were demolished and replaced by the Women's House of Detention. Built in the Art Deco style, it was used solely for women's trials, including one for obscenity charges against Mae West for her Broadway play, Sex

The building housed the New York City's Police Academy before becoming vacant in 1958. The property was soon threatened with demolition to allow for apartment buildings, but was saved by a grassroots campaign of concerned preservationists and civilians led by Margot Gayle and Philip Wittenberg. In 1961, Mayor Robert F. Wagner approved its renovation, with it joining the New York City Public Library system and opening to the public in 1967. The renovation, completed by architect Giorgio Cavaglieri, included an extensive community garden in the place of the demolished women's detention building. Further details on the history of this site can be found here.

Today, the Jefferson Market Library houses a large collection of adult and children's literature, with a special concentration of reference materials on the history of the neighborhood. The library also offers a wide variety of services and public programs, including workshops and conversations, film screenings, and numerous children's programs. 

 

Storefronts Exhibition currently on display 
in The Little Underground Library

NPC is proud to be partnering with the Jefferson Market Library, where the exhibition curated by James and Karla Murray, Capturing the Faces and Voices of Manhattans Disappearing Storefronts, is on display now through October 1st. James and Karla will be teaming up with Neighbor2Neighbor to host an artists' lecture on the exhibit on September 27. 

Neighbor2Neighbor is one of the generous sponsors of this program. To see a list of the sponsors and more information about this event, please go to our website

We are still accepting donations for this program. Please go here to send your support. 

If you haven't seen the exhibit yet, we hope you take the time before October 1st to visit the Little Underground Gallery!