A 100 years ago people resided in hidden apartments above New York’s public libraries there are thirteen left.When these libraries were built, about a 100 years ago, they needed people to take care of them. Andrew Carnegie had given New York $5.2 million, worth well over $100 million today, to create a city-wide system of library branches, and these buildings, the Carnegie libraries, were heated by coal. Each had a custodian, who was tasked with keeping those fires burning and who lived in the library, often with his family. “The family mantra was: Don’t let that furnace go out,” one woman who grew up in a library told the New York Times.
But since the ’70s and ’80s, when the coal furnaces started being upgraded and library custodians began retiring, those apartments have been emptying out, and the idyll of living in a library has disappeared. Today there are just 13 library apartments left in the New York Public Library system.
Inside the apartment, looking past the living room and kitchen doors.
Fort Washington plan. (Image: New York Public Library)