The Ottendorfer Library, was opened in 1884 as the second branch of the New York Free Circulating Library. It is now the oldest operating branch of the New York Public Library, joining the expanding system in the 1890's.
Built in conjunction with the adjacent German Dispensary by Oswald Ottendorfer and his wife Anna, publishers of the German-language newspaper Staats-Zeitung, in an effort to improve the standard of living and ease the transition of the 150,000 German immigrants who called the neighborhood, then known as Kleindeutschland (Little Germany), home. Half of the 8,000 original books were in German with the other half in English.
Designed by German-born architect William Schickel, this ornate red brick building combines Queen Anne and neo-Italian Renaissance styles with an exterior ornamented by innovative terracotta putti that incporpates symbols of wisdom and knowledge like globes, owls, books and torches. The interior has retained its original Victorian character, even through a $2.1M renovation by Macrae-Gibson architects in the late 1990's.
Schickel designed a rear extension for the Ottendorfer Library in 1897 that included a new system for open stack access, a double gallery of iron book stacks with thick glass flooring and a central light well.
The New York Free Circulating Library, Ottendorfer branch was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1977. The interior was later designated in 1981.
National Historic Register #79001607 (1979)