Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch is one of New York City’s greatest literary destinations, containing a plethora of historical collections, contemporary works, and practically any scholarly materials one might need. Yet the landmarked building at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway is something of an afterthought when mentioning New York City’s most architecturally impressive buildings. As the Central Building celebrates its 75th birthday this year, we take a look at the history of the Art Deco building and all that went into its creation.
The Central Library’s history dates as far back as 1898, when what was once called the Brooklyn Park Commission selected the Grand Army Plaza site to be the library’s home base. Architect Raymond F. Almirall was originally charged with the building’s design, one has envisioned in the Beaux Arts style, though the design was never fully executed. Early blueprint sketches and renderings show the time and effort spent on ensuring the building would be a true masterpiece. In 1912, the project’s construction finally broke ground.
As World War I and the Great Depression broke out, construction on the Central Library slowly ceased before eventually halting due to financial strains. For two decades, it sat incomplete until construction finally resumed in 1935. At this point, the new library president, chief librarian, and Brooklyn Borough President Raymond V. Ingersoll had decided to change the design and move forward with a more modern look. The building was finally opened to the public on February 1, 1941. The Central Library’s exterior was designated landmark status in 1997.
To celebrate its 75th birthday, the Central Library has revisited its earliest days through a collection of photos from as far back as 1911. The pictures walk you through the intense planning and years of construction, before its glorious opening day.