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In 1902 American financier Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) chose architect Charles Follen McKim (1847–1909) of the prominent firm McKim, Mead and White to design a library to house his growing collection of rare books and manuscripts. Adjacent to Morgan's home, which stood on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street, McKim created a majestic structure in a classical style based upon villas of the Italian Renaissance. The exterior is constructed of Tennessee pink marble, the blocks set with such precision that virtually no mortar was used. A simple recessed portico is flanked by a pair of stone lionesses. Completed in 1906, Mr. Morgan's Library—as it was called for many years—is the historic heart of today's Morgan Library & Museum.
Restoring the Library's Interior
In 2010 the Morgan restored the interior of the 1906 library to its original grandeur. A new lighting system was installed to illuminate the extraordinary murals and decor of the four historic rooms. Intricate marble surfaces and applied ornamentation were cleaned, period furniture was reupholstered, and original fixtures—including three chandeliers removed decades ago—were restored and reinstalled. A late-nineteenth-century Persian rug (similar to the one originally there) was laid in the grand East Room. The ornate ceiling of the librarian's office, or North Room, was cleaned, and visitors are able to enter the refurbished space—now a gallery—for the first time. New, beautifully crafted display cases throughout the 1906 library feature selections from the Morgan's collection of great works of art and literature from the ancient world to modern times.
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Restoring the Library's Exterior
In June 2022 the Morgan completed the first comprehensive exterior restoration of the library that J. Pierpont Morgan commissioned from architect Charles Follen McKim. This American Renaissance masterpiece, completed in 1906, is the historic heart of the Morgan Library & Museum. The restoration addresses weathering, deterioration, and minor cracking of architectural and decorative elements; stone soiling; losses in the thin masonry joints; deterioration of metalwork; and vulnerabilities in the roof and drainage system.
In conjunction with the restoration, the Morgan undertook site enhancements to reinvigorate the southern portion of its campus and provide seasonal visitor access to the grounds for the first time in the institution’s history. Developed by award-winning landscape designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, the garden creates an accessible route from the Morgan’s interior to the 36th Street site and a new, inviting space for tours and programs.
The garden includes the periwinkle beds flanking the Library’s loggia and colorful, low-height herbaceous beds. A generous grass lawn sweeps out from the modern pavilion next to the Library, bordering the latter and the Annex. Bluestone pathways are laid in patterns derived from the Library’s Renaissance-inspired floors, and cobbled stonework adds visual and textural interest. Several antiquities from the Morgan’s collection that have previously been inaccessible to the public are on display in the garden..
New lighting enhances the building’s presence at night. Linnaea Tillett Lighting Design Associates developed a scheme that includes the relighting of the historic lantern in the Library’s loggia. Tillett’s design bathes the Library and garden in soft “moonlight” and highlight distinctive features of the building and landscape.
The 2010 restoration of J. Pierpont Morgan's Library is made possible through the generous support of Gail and Parker Gilbert, Louise and Lewis Lehrman, Katharine and William Rayner, Jeannette and Jonathan Rosen, Beatrice Stern, Suzanne and Jeffrey Walker, and an anonymous donor.
The Morgan gratefully acknowledges a grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation, which supported earlier structural work on the McKim Building.
In 1966 the secretary of the interior designated J. Pierpont Morgan's Library a national historic landmark. Both the exterior and interior of the library are also designated New York City landmarks.
The exterior restoration of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library and the Morgan Garden was made possible by lead support from the Charina Endowment Fund, Inc.; The City of New York through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; Mrs. Oscar de la Renta; the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, Inc.; Morgan Stanley; Katharine J. Rayner; and the Thompson Family Foundation.
Major support was provided by Agnes Gund; Mr. and Mrs. Clement C. Moore II; Mr. and Mrs. Gary W. Parr; Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence R. Ricciardi; Denise Littlefield Sobel; Mr. and Mrs. Robert King Steel; and Beatrice Stern.
Generous support was received from Bloomberg Philanthropies; Mr. and Mrs. Livio Borghese; T. Kimball Brooker; Karen B. Cohen; Gail A. Gilbert; the Drue and H.J. Heinz II Charitable Trust; Frederick J. Iseman; the Johansson Family Foundation; Martha and Garfield Miller; Patricia and Thruston Morton; Anonymous, in memory of Melvin R. Seiden; Mr. and Mrs. George L.K. Frelinghuysen; Diane A. Nixon; Thomas J. Reid and Christina M. Pae; and Jessie Schilling.
Additional support was provided by Barbara Dau; Mr. and Mrs. R. Bradford Evans; Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles; the A.G. Leventis Foundation; and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.; with assistance from Mr. and Mrs. Roger S. Berlind; Charles Butt; Edward Lee Cave; Peter L. Malkin; the Strackbein Family Charitable Fund; Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey; the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation; Andrea Woodner; and an Anonymous donor.
Let There Be Light, and Elegance The New York Times