The Tompkins Square Branch of The New York Public Library has been serving residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side since 1904. Opening in 1887 as the Fifth Street Branch of the Aguilar Free Library, the branch relocated three times before moving to its present site facing Tompkins Square Park. Designed by esteemed architects McKim, Mead and White, and constructed with funds donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the three-story branch has sixteen-foot ceilings and a spacious children’s room on the second floor.
Traditionally, Tompkins Square has served varied ethnic populations, including German, Italian, Jewish, Polish, and Ukrainian, and, since the 1960s, a thriving arts community (an art gallery in the basement features shows by local artists). A major renovation of the branch, as part of the Library’s Adopt-a-Branch program, was completed in 1996.
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