Are you a frequent visitor to the New York Public Library? No matter if you visit the library in the Bronx or the main building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, there’s always something new to discover when you take the time to learn about its history. Below are a small selection of historical facts and secrets you never knew about the main location of the New York Public Library.

The main building, formally named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, took about 16 years to build. As the largest marble structure ever attempted in the United States, the main library building located on Fifth Avenue was a feat to plan and construct. After at open competition among architectural firms as to who received the privilege to build this historic structure, Carrère and Hastings was the winner. However, before construction could officially begin, the area had to be prepared for two years. The cornerstone of the building was finally laid in May 1902. After roughly nine years of structure and interior work, the library was officially opened on May 23, 1911.


The exterior library walls are a foot thick! In fact, the New York Public Library used more than six times the marble in the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Chamber of Commerce combined.


The main reading room is nearly the length of a football field. Formally named the Rose Main Reading Room, it is the largest uninterrupted room in America. Meaning it’s a completely open space without interior supporting columns or steel-reinforced walls.


The first book lent out by the New York Public Library was “Ethical Ideas of Our Time.” Originally written in Russian under the title “Nravstvennye idealy nashego vremeni,” this formal study on the morals of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and writer Leo Tolstoy was authored by Nikolai I. Grot, a Russian idealist philosopher. The book was requested on the day of the library’s opening, and was quickly found and checked out in just seven minutes.


Looking for more interesting facts about the New York Public Library? Visit their historical fact website here, where the library touches upon information from opening day to fun facts about Olympians who have been on the staff.

Also, take a look at this article – I loved this aspect about the library which I had no idea existed.