As you mount the granite steps to enter the Central Library, your gaze may be drawn to two imposing columns sculpted by C. Paul Jennewein on each side of the doorway. Look up, and you will see above this entrance an enormous grille that rises some fifty feet, adorned with fifteen panels in black and gold, created by another sculptor, Thomas Hudson, depicting some of the great characters of American literature. The columns and gilded bas-relief panels announce to the visitor that the library is a special place of learning and imagination
Thomas Hudson was already well-known when he was commissioned to complete the grand front entranceway in 1938. He along with Brooklynite Lorimer Rich had already won a competition, and completed the design for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Virginia, which commemorated the triumph and courage of the Allies in World War I. As a member of The United States Army Institute of Heraldy he created various medals for the armed forces. A quiet unassumming man, Jones was born in the upstate city of Buffalo and graduated from Syracuse University. His work was produced in a studio in Greenwich Village where he lived with his wife.
Arranged on the magnificent grille that awaits each visitor to the Central Library are characters from adult and children's fiction, as well as two distinguished men of letters: Walt Whitman dressed nattily and robed all in gold, as well as journalist Charles Dana.
There is Jack London's "White Fang" howling under the moon.
Melville's "Moby Dick", still free, riding atop a harpoon.
Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer looking for mischief with his bucket of white paint.
And my favorite, Poe's "The Raven" biding its time before Lenore's ex goes completely mad.
Every day as I come into the library I see visitors from Brooklyn and around the world snapping pictures and pointing to the figures above the door--delighting in a warm artistic welcome to the place of stories.
a schoolgroup from 1953
Thomas Hudson Jones died in 1969 but his artistic legacy continues to stir the imagination and is an extraordinary example of public art.
Click here for an explanation of the Central Library symbols.