23 May 1911

The New York Public Library is opened.

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, commonly known as the Main Branch or the New York Public Library, is the flagship building in the New York Public Library system and a landmark in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The branch, one of four research libraries in the library system, contains nine separate divisions. The structure contains four stories open to the public. The main entrance steps are at Fifth Avenue at its intersection with East 41st Street. As of 2015, the branch contains an estimated 2.5 million volumes in its stacks.

The Main Branch was built after the New York Public Library was formed as a combination of two libraries in the late 1890s. The site, along Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, is located directly east of Bryant Park, on the site of the Croton Reservoir. The architectural firm Carrère and Hastings constructed the structure in the Beaux-Arts style, and the structure opened on May 23, 1911. The marble facade of the building contains ornate detailing, and the Fifth Avenue entrance is flanked by a pair of stone lions that serve as the library’s icon. The interior of the building contains the Main Reading Room, a space measuring 78 by 297 feet with a 52-foot-high ceiling; a Public Catalog Room; and various reading rooms, offices, and art exhibitions.

The Main Branch was originally called the Central Building and was later known as the Humanities and Social Science Center. The Main Branch became popular after its opening, and saw 4 million annual visitors by the 1920s. It formerly contained a circulating library, though the circulating division of the Main Branch moved to the nearby Mid-Manhattan Library in the 1970s. Additional space for the library’s stacks constructed under adjacent Bryant Park was added in 1991, and the branch’s Main Reading Room was restored in 1998. A major restoration from 2007 to 2011 was underwritten by a $100 million gift from philanthropist Stephen A. Schwarzman, for whom the branch was subsequently renamed. Since 2018, the branch has been undergoing an additional expansion that is expected to be completed in 2021.

The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year. It was made a New York City designated landmark in 1967, though parts of the interior were separately listed as New York City designated landmarks in 1974 and 2017.

The Main Branch has been featured in many television shows, including Seinfeld and Sex and the City, as well as films such as The Wiz in 1978, Ghostbusters in 1984, and The Day After Tomorrow in 2004.