Brooklyn Public Library Revives Original 1941 Doors in Historic Restoration
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — It's brand new, but it looks vintage.
In their $250,000 touch-up of the Brooklyn Public Library's historic facade, architects took a page from the design books of their Prospect Heights neighbors, replacing a piece of the borough's architectural history with sturdier, more modern version painstakingly faux-aged to look like the original.
"Each year, roughly one million people pass through the Central Library's doors," said Linda Johnson, the library's president and CEO. "What you have here are exact replicas of the originals, preserving the character of this historic building."
The facelift was hard won. The library was among 40 historic buildings across the city that competed in an online contest for the Partners in Preservation purse last year, beating out the Apollo Theater and the Guggenheim Museum, among others. The grant, a joint effort by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, funds restoration projects around the country.
"A huge range of places competed for this funding," said Roberta Lane, who represents the National Trust. "But people love this place — that's the lesson."
Standing almost at the geographic center of the borough, the library is already one of Brooklyn's most memorable buildings. The Art Deco/Scandinavian Modern building was designed to look like a book opening out onto Flatbush Avenue, its pages adorned with glittering fictional personalities from Tom Sawyer to Hester Prynne.
Unlike recent and continuing internal improvements, the external renovation was so carefully matched to the original that most of the million plus patrons who pass through them every year won't notice the new doors at all.
That, said state Sen. Eric Adams, should be the point.
"The doors are not just to keep the wind out," Adams said. "They're there to keep dreams alive inside."