Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jefferson Market Library


Jefferson Market Branch is part of the New York City Public Library system. distant view shows famous clocktower. 2)

A close up of the building allows for appreciation of its Art Deco architecture. 3)

Engraving on building shows glimpse of history when the building was part of the Third Judicial District Court. 4) Plaque on fa├žade indicates the change of building from Jefferson Market Courthouse to Jefferson Market Library.

425 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011

The Jefferson Market library, now a New York City landmark located in the heart of Greenwich Village, was once the home to the Jefferson Market Courthouse, a part of the Third Judicial District Courthouses. The building was designed by architects Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in a Victorian Gothic style and was erected in 1875. The building cost the city about $360,000 and has served the city many functions.

In 1927 the Courthouse was used for women's trials, and the adjacent market and co-ed prison were torn down to create a women’s detention center. The Women's House of Detention was designed by the Sloan and Robertson firm and opened in 1931. Due to its prime location there have been many stories of prisoners yelling and even cursing at streetgoers as they passed the prison on their way through Greenwich Village. The "House of D," as it was commonly known, held various women, throughout the years, primarly activists, many of whom later confessed to have been victims of inhumane treatment within the confine's of the building's eleven stories. The detention center was demolished in 1973 because of structural hazards, and the land was made into a garden, which is owned by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and tended to by residents of the area.

The Jefferson Market Library, which is still in still existence today served as a civil court, police court, and its basement was a prisoner’s holding cell. The bell in the tower actually served to summon volunteer fire fighters of the Greenwich area. In 1959 the building was left empty and desolate. Plans to make it into an apartment building were stopped thanks to community members led by Margot Gayle who strived to keep the building erect. In 1961 the building was declared to be turned into a public library by NYC Mayor Robert F. Wagner. Grassroots efforts, similar to those of Gayle in 1960, have been seen in growing numbers in New York City, particluarly in East Harlem, in efforts to combat urban renewal and gentrification. The library opened for business in 1965 and currently offers its adult, young adult and children patrons various services, including free computer and internet access. The building has not changed architecturally; its Act Deco design remains today for its hundreds of daily vistors to enjoy.

- Diana Andrade and Lydia S. Guerra

Subway Directions:

F, V, A, C, E to Fourth St.; use Waverly Place exit. Walk three blocks north on Ave. of the Americas.

2 and 3 trains to 14th St. Exit at 12th St. and Seventh Ave.; walk east to Sixth Ave. and south to Tenth St.

1 train to Christopher St.; walk east on Christopher St. to Ave. of the Americas; then north one block.

L train to 14th St. and Sixth Ave.; walk south four blocks on Sixth Ave.


Collerius, Frank. "A History of the Jefferson Market Library". New York Public Library: 3 April 2003.

Davila, Arlene. Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neolibral City. Berkelely: University of California Press, 2004.

"Calvert Vaux." Landmarks Preservation Commission, March 18, 2008, Designation List 402, LP-2274.

Loschiavo, LindaAnn. "From activists and authors to madams and madwomen: The prisoners of Sixth Avenue." The Villager Online: 19-25 Oct 2005.

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