10 Best Libraries in New York City for Admiring Architecture


You don’t need to be a bookworm to admire the beautiful architecture of the New York City’s most famous libraries (link it with 10 Most Famous libraries of New York City). From New York Public Library to Jefferson Market, there are several libraries in New York that will make you feel out of the world. Why libraries? Because libraries of New York have some of the most beautiful buildings to visit. 

Following is the list of 10 best libraries in New York City that have the most elegant architecture:

Note: The list is in no specific order. 

New York Public Library Main Branch – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (New York Public Library Main Branch)

The Main Branch of New York Public Library, also known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, is located on the Fifth Avenue, opposite East 41st Street. This beautiful building was formerly known as the Central Building. When it was opened to the public in 1911, it was considered the largest marble-built building in the whole United States.

Four branches of New York Public Library exist in New York, and this is one of them. Many scholars, researchers, readers, writers, and books aficionados spend their time quenching their thirst for knowledge in the majestic rooms of the Main Branch. 

The building is made according to the Beaux-Arts architectural style (link with Best Beaux-Arts Buildings in New York City) that is soothing to eyes.  

Address: Fifth Avenue, New York 10036

New York Academy of Medicine

New York Academy of Medicine

Established in 1847 and then opened to the general public in 1878, New York Academy of Medicine’s library holds the most significant collections of medicine and public health, including a catalog of medical journals, important research documents, and other ephemera. There you can see more than 550 thousand volumes and original writings by Sigmund Freud.

You won’t just find the building’s architecture amazing but also love how there is so much knowledge put together in one place. Once you are there, don’t forget to check the historical collections that include items such as an amputation kit and documentation about a smallpox outbreak in the 18th century England. 

Address: 1216 Fifth Ave, New York

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library and Museum

Originally the private library of John Piermont (JP) Morgan, this lavish edifice was built in 1900-1906. The first building, known as McKim Building, to house Morgan’s Library, was designed by Charles Follen McKim in Classical Revival style. Edward Clark Potter sculpted the lionesses that sit outside the building as if they are guarding all the precious knowledge inside. 

Upon entering the library, you will see richly decorated interior with a polychrome rotunda that leads to three public rooms, i.e. the librarian’s office, JP Morgan’s private study, and the library itself. The rotunda, created by H. Siddons Mowbray, has a domed ceiling with plasterwork and murals inspired by Raphael. 

In 2006, a massive renovation took place that was done by Renzo Piano. This step of renovating the library brought more natural light into the building, and the size for exhibition space was doubled. 

Today, the Morgan Library and Museum receives visitors from all around the globe to see the collections of original Michelangelo drawings as well as Steinbeck manuscripts. The place also has a theater, Gilder Lehrman Hall, where you can get entertained by attending recitals and concerts. 

To read more about the architectural history of this library, check out t article on The Architectural History of the Morgan Library.

Address: 225 Madison Avenue at East 36th Street Manhattan

New York Mercantile Library

Mercantile Library
The Mercantile Library in the Astor Opera House building, 1886

New York Mercantile Library, also known as The Center for Fiction, is a not-for-profit organization situated in 15 Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The new building of the Center For Friction brings the old school charm of literature while also offering us more modern digs with a café/bar, writing space, a bookstore, and of course, a beautiful library. 

While you need a membership to access the co-working spaces and the library upstairs, there is pretty much for the public to check out in the ground floor, for free. The ground floor houses a portion of the library, a bar-café, a bookstore, and event space. 

Members can lend books and get discounts on reading groups, events, workshops, bookstore, and more. If you are a literature and architecture lover, you will find this place a perfect fit for your quiet nature. 

Address: 15 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Jefferson Market Library

The Jefferson Market Library
Jefferson Market Court in 1935, with the IRT Sixth Avenue Line in front of it. Photograph by Berenice Abbott (1935)

The Jefferson Market Library, formerly known as the Jefferson Market Courthouse, is one of the historical branches of the New York Public Library System that resembles a church. Originally, the place served as the Third Judicial Courthouse from 1874 to 1877. The building was designed by Frederick Clarke Withers of the Vaux and Withers, an architecture firm. 

You can easily distinguish this gorgeous library by its tall red brick tower, which was used back then as a fire lookout tower. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Address: 425 6th Ave, New York

Tompkins Square Library

Another branch of New York Public Library System, the Tompkins Square Library, is located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The building has 16ft tall ceilings and a three-story space. It is one of those libraries in New York that has a spacious room for children. The branch is known for serving a variety of ethnicities, including Jewish, Italian, Polish, German, and Ukrainian.

Since the 1960s, the library is hosting a thriving community of arts. If you get a chance to visit Manhattan’s Lower East Side, don’t forget to view the beautiful architecture of the Tompkins Square Library. 

Address: 331 East 10th Street

Ottendorfer Library

Ottendorfer Library

This place consists of two historic buildings adjoined that belong to the Ottendorfer Library and Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital. It is located in East Village and is the first free public library of New York City. The branch opened in 1884, and that time the building was a part of the neighborhood called “Kleindeutschland” – which translates to “Little Germany).

The branch served its German-community with more than half of the books in the German language. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1977, and its adjoining building was designated the same position in 1976. In 1979, both the buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places

Address: 135 2nd Ave, New York

Central Library (Brooklyn Public Library)

The Central Library, also known as the main branch of Brooklyn Public Library, is an Art Deco building of New York that was built in 1911-1940. It was designed and detailed by C. Paul Jennewein and Thomas Hudson Jones to physically resemble an open book. Besides being a remarkable library, this branch of Brooklyn Public Library also has an outdoor performance space that is used for conducting concerts and other events. 

If you are going to visit this library with your family, especially toddlers and teens, then you will find it super helpful! This is because the place’s first-floor Youth Wing has designated spaces for teens and toddlers where they can discover the love of reading. 

All in all, the Central Library is an excellent place to admire the beauty of architecture and read your favorite books. 

Address: Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn


Libraries are a great way to quench your thirst for knowledge – combine them with gorgeous architecture, and you have a fantastic tourist spot to check out! If you are a New Yorker or just a tourist who wants to view the rich, historic architecture of New York City, these libraries are the best option. 

Want to know the hidden libraries in New York City? Check out the articles on Top 10 Secret Libraries of New York.

Share this

Recent articles

More like this