Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch
The Brooklyn Public Library's Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza took four decades to construct!
The Art Deco Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch was the result of a 1902 merger between the Mercantile Library in Brooklyn Heights and the public Brooklyn branch library system. Plans were made to build a new central branch to rival the New York Public Library which was building a new home on the former Croton Reservoir at 42nd and Fifth. Similarly, Brooklyn's library would be built over the Mount Prospect Reservoir between Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park.
In 1905 architect Raymond F. Almirall was chosen to design a Beaux-Arts library on the site (similar to the nearby Brooklyn Museum, and construction commenced in 1911. Political debates and rising costs soon delayed the project, and by 1930 only a third of the building, the Flatbush wing (shown above) was completed!
In 1935 the library scrapped Almirall's project and brought in new architects, Githens and Keally, who stripped the partially completed structure of its ornament, instead proposing to build a more modern building. The new design was completed in 1941 and featured an enormous central entrance glittered with gold surrounded by a blank, unadorned limestone facade. Above the entranceway doors are fifteen squares with gilded reliefs picturing American literary figures including Edgar Allen Poe's Raven, Moby Dick, and Tom Sawyer. The gigantic columns on either side of the entrance are marked with gold silhouettes depicting the evolution of arts and science. The only remaining sign of Almirall's original library is a section of the original facade that faces the library's parking lot.