In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday, reminding us of family and our childhoods. I thought it would be a good idea to take a trip down memory lane to a building that I hold near and dear to my heart. When I was a young child my grandmother used to take me and my sisters to this magical library in Greenwich Village known as The Jefferson Market Library. Before I even knew the correct terms to describe a building, I grew to love this structure not only because it automatically symbolized togetherness and family but it also amazed me how greatly defined the structure was; almost like entering those doors was synonymous to stepping into an entirely different era.
The Victorian Gothic Building started construction in 1875 by architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clark Withers and was completed in 1877. The project was funded by the city since the building’s main use was for government and community purposes as The 3rd Judicial District Courthouse. Vaux and Withers budget for the project was 3.6 thousand dollars, which does not seem like a lot of money in present day, but in the time period was a massive fortune. With a conversion of inflation, 3.6 thousand dollars in 1875 is equivalent to about 7.8 million dollars in 2016 (present day).
They masterfully crafted the place in a Victorian Gothic style which celebrates pointed arches in any form of entrances, stained glass, and other means of ornamentation. The courthouse had three different main floors; the top (second floor) was used as a civil court which now houses DVDs, adult and young adult literature, and CDs, the floor below it (first floor) was a police court and is now the specified children’s area, and lastly the basement (sub-level floor) was used as a holding space for criminals and prisoners, waiting to be transferred to jail is now used for resources. The bell tower was juxtaposed the main floors and was utilized by the community fire department as a watchtower. Also, the large clock that adorns a facade of the building was a necessary means for everyone in the community and all who used the courthouse.
In 1927 the courthouse was solely used for women’s trials, dismissing its co-ed method of before and only settling women’s cases. After a series of changes of usage came upon the courthouse, it finally discontinued its use for court due to redistricting in 1945 (which was 75 years after it was built). The building was then used by various community agencies; including the police academy, at one point. Slowly the need for the building dwindled as architectural natural selection took place. In 1959 the once, one of the top ten most beautiful buildings in America in the 1880’s, was now completely unused and became a home to the city’s creatures. Something that used to be so beautiful was dejected to the pressure of being demolished to build a new apartment building. The area’s population thought the aging courthouse was an eyesore and depreciated the value of Greenwich Village. But the community officials did not allow this grim fate to occur and fought to keep the previously beloved courthouse. In 1961, it was later announced that the courthouse would be preserved and used as a public library. So under architect, Giorgio Cavaglieri’s supervision, the courthouse was spared and opened for business as a library in 1967; which is how we know the Jefferson Market Library today.
Now, every time I go to The Jefferson Market library, I think of my grandmother and how we would connect through literature and other discoveries. So on this holiday I will happily reminisce of the great times I had with my family in New York City.
Join in on the holiday memory lane fun. What places in New York City makes you think of family or gives you the feeling of home?