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New York, Act 2, Scene 4

February 27, 2013

Two lions, originallly called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox after the philanthropists who donated large sums of money for the library, continue to guard the building. Constructed of pink Tennessee marble by sculptor Edward Clark Potter (1857-1923), the lions were renamed Patience and Fortitude during the depression to remind visitors of those virtues during hard times. Broad steps leading up to the building are without railings. Inside is a spacious marbled entry. The right wing contains a small coffee shop with a few tables and chairs. Today docents, ready to answer questions are seated at the other wing. A charming woman explains the this library is not a lending library, but a reference library. There are currently 87 branches of the public library serving Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. This library, opened in 1911 by President Taft, is second in size only to the Library of Congress.

The culinary history of New York since 1840 is on display in the main exhibit hall on the first floor. Nine thousand menus have been transcribed and volunteers are working on 36,000 more. A lot of work for a little history. Called Lunch Hour in New York City, the dislay features the once popular automats, where diners put nickels into windows containing food. I remembered dining on cornbread, baked beans and lemon pies at a Horn and Hardart Automat in Trenton. The items removed were quickly replaced as the windows emptied. Automats became extinct as prices for food climbed beyond the nickle range. Printed recipes for creamed spinach and beef burgundy were among those available, and I took them in case I should ever get the urge to recreate them.

Clean restrooms are available on the second floor — important knowledge in NYC.


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