03 June 2008

New York Loses Another Unique Place

In the 1990s, when I worked in midtown, I would sometime duck in the Mercantile Library to look around and seize a few moments of solace in the noisy east 40s. It was one of those comforting, crusty, fusty edifices from another era, when Gotham was replete with serious-minded clubs and societies meant to ennoble the city and its residents. It was full of silence and woodwork and old paintings and forgotten memorabilia of history. And lots and lots of books. There was another one such place just a couple blocks south, the Society of Mechanics and Tradesman. They are two of the three private libraries remaining in New York City. Think of them at the Gramercy Parks of the library world.

Well, the Mercantile Library went the way of the passenger pigeon last month, the New York Times reports. It's not out of business, but it chose to sell its grand old home on E. 47th where it's been since 1932. It couldn't afford the $6 million needed for renovation, so it chose to move. It's taking its holdings and some of the ornamentation with it. But you can bet the new home with be smaller and not nearly as redolent with charm and nobility. Quite frankly, in this market, I'd be surprised if they can find a suitable place in the Tribeca-Soho area they're aiming at. (They want to be where the young folks are, you see, and have changed their named to the marginally hipper Mercantile Library Center for Fiction.)

The developer, unnamed, supposedly will preserve the building. Seems to me that if they were kind of developer interested in preservation, they'd be OK with having their name released to the press.

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