In 1927 Mae West was prosecuted here on Sixth Avenue for obscenity — — particularly because of the homosexual content of her shows. But more recently the nineteenth century landmark was about to be raped by the pencil-pushers who rule The New York Public Library. Fortunately, Greenwich Village residents rallied in the name of justice and won.
• • The Villager recently published this news about the beloved Jefferson Market Courthouse turned library.
• • In his front page feature "Long-overdue library facade repairs finally fully funded," staffwriter Albert Amateau explained the cause for jubilation. He wrote: "Villagers who have long been demanding the renovation of the Jefferson Market Library’s exterior celebrated the announcement on Tuesday [21 August 2007] that new city funding has assured the project.
• • Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined State Senator Tom Duane, New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc and Village leaders in the community room of the landmarked library to announce that the new funding brings the total allocation to more than $7 million for renovating the facade, windows, roof, and tower of the landmarked building erected in 1877 as a courthouse.
• • The beginning of construction is planned for June 2009 and is expected to be completed in two years. A two-month design phase includes review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the building is a designated New York City landmark. A final design and development of construction documents will follow and be submitted to contractors for bidding.
• • Several Greenwich Village Block Associations ... renewed the call for preserving the deteriorating exterior of the library. Since 2003, the Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street sides of the library have been obscured by a sidewalk shed erected to protect people from fragments of limestone and brick falling from the facade.
• • “We all know that the Jefferson Market Library is one of the great library buildings in the city,” Quinn said. “In 1880, it was cited as one of the 10 most beautiful buildings in the country. But in the past few years you had to squint to see it because of the scaffold.”
• • Quinn recalled that when Duane was city councilmember for the Village in 1992 — — and she was then on his staff — — he was able to get more than $700,000 allocated for restoring the building. Added to that, Quinn this year allocated $2.7 million in addition to $1.39 million she earmarked in previous years. Also this year, Mayor Bloomberg provided matching funds of $2.2 million for the library restoration.
• • It was uncertain last year whether previous funds appropriated for a redesign of the library’s interior could be reallocated for facade and structural work. But in February 2007, LI/ Salzman Architects completed a report funded by Quinn and Duane that concluded that because of significant deterioration of the sandstone and brickwork, plus open mortar joints and cracked stone, water had penetrated the facade causing the stonework to shift and settle and allowing the building’s iron structure to rust.
• • In addition, it was found that the Sixth Avenue portico has detached slightly from the facade and leans slightly toward the street.
• • All but $184,000 — — spent for interior design work [a design that would have reconfigured the library's reference room into a music lounge for teens] — — of more than $2 million previously funded will be transferred to the exterior project. The work includes shoring up deficiencies that contributed to the deterioration and returning the building to its original splendor.
• • Community Board 2 called the library "the most iconic building in the Village.”
• • Designed by Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in 1875 and completed two years later, the courthouse was where Harry K. Thaw was found guilty of murdering the architect Stanford White and where Mae West was prosecuted for the sexual content of her shows.
• • The courthouse was erected on the site of the Jefferson Market, where a 100-foot-tall wooden fire tower kept watch over the Village. The courthouse tower is also 100 feet tall and holds the original fire bell from its wooden precursor.
• • By 1945 the building was no longer used as a courthouse and other agencies had occupied it. A 1958 decision to demolish the building was fought by Village advocates . . .
— — excerpt — —
• • Source: The Villager — — www.TheVillager.com
• • Byline: Albert Amateau
• • Published on: 23 August 2007
• • Unfortunately, this landmark has not preserved the building's cultural history via a plaque nor a permanent exhibition inside, where there's lots of space for it — — and now the funding. MAE WEST and a heap of women's history-makers tramped through these corridors. Maybe. . . .
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Illustration: • • Mae West on trial • • 1927 • •