The New York Public Library
476 Fifth Avenue, New York

After an ornamental plaster rosette weighing over 16 pounds fell from its richly decorated, 52 foot-high ceiling, the New York Public Library’s grand Reading Room, the opulent centerpiece of Carrere & Hasting’s Beaux-Arts masterwork, was closed to the public for over two years.

During that hiatus, professionals examined the rosettes on site and in a lab, probed their anchor system, assessed roof trusses, and surveyed the ceiling for any deficiencies. They determined that a combination of human activity and moisture-related degradation were likely culprits, and introduced multiple treatments to prevent similar outcomes. In order to preserve the original performance of the historic ceiling, the original construction was replicated, along with redundant supports that would engage only if the primary support failed. A new ceiling mural in the adjacent Catalog Room was installed over the existing one, allowing the option of a full restoration in the future; it matches similar murals in the Reading Room, fabricated and installed by the same artisans nearly 20 years ago.

At Gottesman Hall, small pieces of wood had been falling from the ornate, hand-carved Renaissance-style dark oak ceiling for several years. Now this ceiling has also been thoroughly inspected and documented. Craftsmen mimicked the original artists, hand carving and installing elements that had been lost or damaged.