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

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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.

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On the third floor of the Fort Washington Library.

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Fort Washington, the front room.

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Fort Washington, the ceiling.

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Inside the apartment, looking past the living room and kitchen doors.

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Paint peeling.

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The back bedroom.

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Death chute (also known as a dumbwaiter shaft) looking up.

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Death chute, looking down.

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Fort Washington plan.
Photo: NYPL

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Fort Washington kitchen.

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Fort Washington.

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Another bedroom, used for storage.

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Fort Washington, in the kitchen.

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Fort Washington.

Matt Coneybeare

Matt Coneybeare

Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

Matt enjoys exploring the City's food scene with his Wife and the outdoors with their three dogs. He is an avid marathon runner, and spends most of his time working from a treadmill desk at home.

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