Stop 11. The Builders



Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints

While we often speak of the building that Morgan and McKim made, it is more accurate to say there were hundreds of people, their names largely unknown to us today, who built this “bookman’s paradise.”

Charles Follen McKim, the lead architect and creative force behind the building, relied on a team of proficient draftsmen in McKim, Mead & White’s studio to create the design drawings that articulated his vision. He engaged Charles T. Wills as general contractor and a host of specialists to build and ornament the Library. Just after construction began in 1903, a series of strikes brought the entire New York building industry to a standstill in April. Progress on the Library was delayed as workers sought improved conditions and better pay. Construction resumed in November and work was completed three years later, thanks to the efforts of the teams of artisans and contractors, many from workshops headed by immigrants, who contributed their labor and creativity to the project.