A shelter from the cold with benefits

I had a few hours to kill after work and wandered into the New York Public Library; the big branch on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue. They were open until 8:00 p.m. that evening and I needed a place to get out of the cold. If you go to the third floor, you’ll find a huge reading room with high, carved wood ceilings and big windows that let light pour in. The long oak tables have electrical outlets built right into the tabletops so you can plug in. Plus, there’s a Gutenberg bible on permanent display in a glass case at the entrance to the reading room. You don’t stumble across that ever day!

These photos of the main entrance off of 42nd Street make it look like a mausoleum or a crypt. It’s the fault of my camera; it’s not poor lighting or design. It looks more grand in person.

The city is getting all dolled up for the Christmas season. I love this time of year and, believe me, it has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. The town looks great and people really do seem lighter.

The sign carved into the stone at the balcony, right at the tip of the Christmas tree, says Astor Cort. In the 19th century, the Astors were the wealthiest family in America and they financed this library, along with other public works. The Waldorf-Astoria, Astoria, Queens and Astor Place in the East Village are among the dozens of places that bear their name. The reward for all that philanthropic work was to lose John Jacob Astor IV on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

I stumbled upon a fantastic photography exhibit that’s worth your time x 100 if you’re in the neighborhood. I didn’t even know it was going on! NYC: a surprise around every corner. Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at the New York Public Library is up through January 2nd. I thought it would be a pedestrian collection of pics but I was wrong. All the heavies are represented: Robert Capa, Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee and tons more. So fun. And it’s FREE! FREE! FREE!

Penny Diane Wolin. “That’s His Mother, He Never Married;” from the series The Jews of Wyoming. Gelatin silver print, 1985. © Penny Diane Wolin.
Amy Arbus. “Ann Magnuson on Park Avenue.” Gelatin silver print, 1981. © Amy Arbus.

James De Sana. “David Byrne.” Gelatin silver print, ca. 1980. © James De Sana.Arnold Genthe. “Edna St. Vincent Millay.” Gelatin silver print, 1913.

18 thoughts on “A shelter from the cold with benefits

  1. Sounds like the Astors were much classier and benevolent folk than the billionaires of today, who seem to be nothing more than ruthless, penny pinching bastards.Oh, Merry Christmas! 😉

  2. Rob: BOY it THAT the truth! The Astors were wealthy and they cared. Aside from guys like Bill Gates (a nicely reformed monopolist), Warren Buffet and a few others, today’s mega-billionaires seem to be a pack of self-absorbed pigs.

  3. Savannah: What made you feel old? Did you date John Jacob Astor IV? Nurse: She’s a hot tomato, don’t think? So girl next door. And a writer, to boot!Daisy: This exhibit is in the library right next to where we had a drink! So close and yet so far away.

  4. Don’t forget that Mrs. Wife and yours truly grew up in the town that served as the Astors summer retreat from the hot ‘sitTAY’. Their old manse now serves as the Municipal Building.

  5. Savannah: I feel for you but I’m too busy nursing my own age-related wounds to offer any solace.JZ: Can you imagine? Your HOUSE is used for a MUNICIPAL BUILDING. It makes me feel like I don’t try hard enough.Pat: Isn’t that an old Vaudeville routine?! Clever.

  6. I’ve never visited NYC long enough to actually get inside the library. Nobody wants to “sight-see” with you in a library.Old libraries are the coolest places on earth. We have an old Carnegie library in my hometown that was closed in the late 80’s when the build the new addition. My mother says it’s been renovated and re-opened recently and I can’t wait to see it in the spring. Thanks for sharing.

  7. TUB: You do try hard enough….nobody talks about the generations of Astors that suffered making it a little better for their kids. Not that there aren’t forces out there acting against that all the time as well….but that’s a conversation to be had when we have a weekend to kill…..Outer Banks vacation?

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