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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Postcard Thursday: The Lenox Library


Today's postcard, sent August 30, 1906, shows the Lenox Library, which stood at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 70th Street. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the library opened in 1875 and housed the rare book collection of philanthropist James Lenox. However, due to the library's curtailed hours (Tuesdays and Thursdays only, with advance permission from the librarian), the building was more of an architectural monument than anything else. Life magazine spoofed the library in 1884 (below), showing cannons on the rooftop and New Yorkers who'd dared attempt access strung up like criminals.


The bust of Richard Morris Hunt, Fifth Avenue.
In 1895, a monument to Hunt, the library's architect, was constructed across Fifth Avenue, with the idea that Hunt's bust would stare in perpetuity at one of his finest creations. Alas, that was not to be. First, the Lenox Library merged with Astor Library downtown and the Tilden Trust to form the nucleus of the New York Public Library. Then, in 1913, Henry Clay Frick, looking for a spot to build a mansion, tore down the vacant Lenox Library structure and built the Frick Collection in its place. (If you haven't already, James had a detailed article about the origins of the Frick published a few months ago on Curbed, which you can read here.)

The postcard reads: "Aug 30, 1906. Your postal is the only one I have received from Chicago and I am much pleased to have it. I hope the vacation was all you anticipated." It was sent to Edward Walling at 42 Seventh Street, who turns out to have been an NYPD captain in the fifth precinct. Two-and-a-half years later, his wife, Lydia, made the pages of The New York Times when she saved their elderly neighbor, Honora Casey, from a fire in their building.


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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

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