Peek Inside One of the New York Public Library's Last Secret Apartments

The exterior of the Fort Washington library the year it opened, 1914. The top floor windows are for the apartment.
The exterior of the Fort Washington library the year it opened, 1914. The top floor windows are for the apartment.
Photo: NYPL

Our friends at Atlas Obscura recently had a chance to explore an old abandoned secret apartment within the New York Public Library's Fort Washington branch, one of many secret apartments at NYPL locations.

When these libraries were built, about a century ago, they needed people to take care of them. Andrew Carnegie had given New York $5.2 million, worth well over $100 million today, to create a city-wide system of library branches, and these buildings, the Carnegie libraries, were heated by coal. Each had a custodian, who was tasked with keeping those fires burning and who lived in the library, often with his family. "The family mantra was: Don’t let that furnace go out," one woman who grew up in a library told the New York Times.

Check out the accompanying article for more on these hidden library apartments.

On the third floor of the Fort Washington Library.
On the third floor of the Fort Washington Library.
Photo: Zach Gross
Fort Washington, the front room.
Fort Washington, the front room.
Photo: Zach Gross
Fort Washington, the ceiling.
Fort Washington, the ceiling.
Photo: Zach Gross
Inside the apartment, looking past the living room and kitchen doors.
Inside the apartment, looking past the living room and kitchen doors.
Photo: Zach Gross
Paint peeling.
Paint peeling.
Photo: Zach Gross
The back bedroom.
The back bedroom.
Photo: Zach Gross
Death chute (also known as a dumbwaiter shaft) looking up.
Death chute (also known as a dumbwaiter shaft) looking up.
Photo: Zach Gross
Death chute, looking down.
Death chute, looking down.
Photo: Zach Gross
Fort Washington plan.
Fort Washington plan.
Photo: NYPL
Fort Washington kitchen.
Fort Washington kitchen.
Photo: Zach Gross
Fort Washington.
Fort Washington.
Photo: Zach Gross
Another bedroom, used for storage.
Another bedroom, used for storage.
Photo: Zach Gross
Fort Washington, in the kitchen.
Fort Washington, in the kitchen.
Photo: Zach Gross
Fort Washington.
Fort Washington.
Photo: Zach Gross

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