Building of the Day: 224-228 Ryerson Street

(Photo: dpHettix, on Flickr)

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: 224-228 Ryerson Street. Library is located within the Pratt Campus, near Hall St. between DeKalb and Willoughby Avenues.
Name: Pratt Institute Library, originally Pratt Institute Free Library
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1896. North Porch – 1936, Renovation 1982.
Architectural Style: Rundbogenstil Romanesque/Renaissance Revival
Architects: William B. Tubby, North Porch John Mead Howells, Renovation Giorgio Cavaglieri and Warren Gran
Landmarked: Yes, an individual landmark, designated with other Pratt buildings in 1981.

Why chosen: The Pratt Institute Library was the first free public library in Brooklyn. It was founded by millionaire Charles Pratt in 1888. He was a supporter of the Mercantile Library, which pre-dates this one, located in Brooklyn Heights, but that was a subscription library, where members paid a fee to join. This library was free to the general public, anyone over the age of 14. Pratt established Pratt Institute as a manual training school, with the belief the best way to help people was to help them to educate and help themselves. He supported the idea that a free library would encourage people to self-educate. Before this building was built, the library was located in the Main Hall of the Institute. He also established a small library branch in his Astral Apartments, the model tenement built in Greenpoint to house his workers. The free library quickly outgrew the space in the Main Building, and Pratt had William B.Tubby, one of his favorite architects, design this three story brick building, which complements the style of the Tubby-designed South Hall. Rundbogenstil means round arched, and describes a German style of Romanesque Revival architecture. Here, Tubby mixes those features with the more classic shapes and details of the Classical style, very popular at the time. The result is a very venerable looking building, and a fine library. In 1912, an ornate stone porch leading to the new children’s room was added, but that was removed and relocated to another part of the campus in 1980. The North porch was added by John Mead Howells in 1936. In 1982, architects Giorgio Cavaglieri and Warren Gran designed the underground addition to the library, as well as the design of the terrace, which is the roof of the underground addition, and the entrance to the south side of the building. The interior of the building was designed by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s company. The main staircase and hallway is a grand affair, but the best things in the interior are the stacks. The shelves have beautiful cast iron brackets, and the floors are covered in semi-opaque glass tile, which allow light to filter through from floor to floor. Unfortunately for the general public, Pratt closed the free library down in 1940, and now it serves only the Pratt Institute population.

Postcard dates from after 1912, when the Children’s Portico entrance was built. Probably late teens.

(Photo: NY Public Library)

(Photo: NY Public Library)

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