The Jefferson Market Courthouse Library

The Jefferson Market Library

On the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street sits one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, now called The Jefferson Market Library. It looks like a church or castle, but it was originally a courthouse built in 1877 as part of a complex that also included a jail and market. Designed by the English architect Frederick Clarke Withers, it is an amazing example of High Victorian Gothic. The large stained glass windows and intricate carvings seem to be church-like, but they depict little animals and other non-religious imagery. The tower actually had an important purpose as a fire lookout, since when it was built, fire was a constant danger in the city.

In 1927, the jail and market were town down and replaced by a large women’s prison, which was the only prison ever built in the art deco style. In 1974, the prison was demolished. The courthouse had sat abandoned since 1945 and was slated to be demolished as well, but was saved by community preservationists and in 1961 became a public library, which it remains to this day. The land previously occupied by the market and prison are now a public park.

See the courthouse on our Secrets of Greenwich Village Tour.