Building of the Day: 10 Grand Army Plaza

Photo by @bklynlibrary

Editors note: This post has been updated to include new images.

The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address:
10 Grand Army Plaza
Name: Central Branch, Brooklyn Public Library
Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
Year Built: 1937-1941
Architectural Style: Modern Classical
Architects: Alfred M. Githens and Francis Keally
Landmarked: Yes

Why chosen: The Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is one of Brooklyn’s best Modernist buildings. What many people don’t realize is that this building represents the finished product of a library building begun in 1908. Brooklyn architect Raymond Almirall was commissioned to build a Beaux-Art classical style building that would complement the Arch, the entrance to the park, and the Brooklyn Museum. But in 1913, the funds dried up, leaving a large empty foundation dug, and a west wing on Flatbush Avenue. The uncompleted project sat there for 30 years, until the city got around to resuming the project in 1937. (You think public works projects are slow now?) By this time, Beaux-Arts architecture out, it was the age of sleek, modern, machine age design. A new team of architects, Githens & Keally, were brought in. Confined to the foundations and wall already there, they designed a great library in what is called the Modern Classical style. The Flatbush Ave wing was stripped of its marble sheathing, and worked into the new design. The entrance was redesigned to curve in and welcome visitors. The ornamentation reflects the Art Deco/Moderne sensibility and love of design in relief. The reliefs on either side of the doors were designed by Carl Jennwein, and the bronze screen is by Thomas Hudson Jones. Quotations about seeking knowledge welcome the reader into the library. The cast zinc eagle just inside the entrance once graced the old Brooklyn Eagle Building, razed for Cadman Plaza. Through the doors lies one of the best modernist interiors in NYC, and a great library.

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