A MUST-SEE place in New York
But few know of the place that happens to be the Big Apple's oldest cultural institution: the New York Society Library.
It was founded in 1754 by the New York Society as a subscription library. During the time New York served as the capital of the United States, it was the de facto Library of Congress. It also functioned as the city's library until the New York Public Library was established in 1895.
The New York Society Library was patronized by such iconic political figures as George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr, the latter two eventually squaring off in a duel that resulted in Hamilton's untimely death. Interestingly, Washington is believed to have failed to return two books due in 1789.
Since 1937, the library has been housed in the former John S. Roger's Mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side (between Madison and Park avenues), the fourth location in its history. It was recognized as a New York City landmark in 1967 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
It originally occupied a room in the old City Hall on the Lower East Side, which later became the first U.S. Capitol. During the Revolutionary War, New York was occupied by the British army, which looted the library's small collection. They tore book paper up to make wadding for their muskets and sold many of the books for alcohol.
The library's extensive collection of 300,000 volumes includes periodicals, audio recordings, and books on a wife array of topics.
While visiting a library might seem a bit dull to someone wanting to explore the hustle and bustle of New York, there's no question that while the New York City Library plays second fiddle to the city's more popular hotspots, it's a big part of New York's history.
So if you're ever in the area, take a few minutes to walk around the library and explore what's on view. You might stumble upon a good book worth reading over a cup of joe.