The building housing Greenwich Village's Jefferson Market Branch Library was voted one of the most beautiful buildings in America by a poll of architects in the 1880s. Not much has changed. A courthouse until 1945 that also served as a women's detention center in the '20s, it was restored and reopened as a library in the '60s, its clock tower bell the second largest in New York City, its beautiful gardens and medieval black wrought-iron fence donated by Brooke Astor. Inside, the library's reference room, located at the bottom of a spiral staircase, houses the invaluable Iconography of Manhattan Island, a book chronicling the history of Gotham from 1498 to 1909 by I.N. Phelps Stokes. The children's room, located on the first floor, is where you can put your name on the waiting list for the fourth Harry Potter tome and all of Phillip Pullman's books, while the adult and teenage reading rooms are located up the steps. The people who work here are very polite and helpful, and there is an atmosphere of calmness and peace.
Hours: Mon & Wed noon-8pm, Tue 10am-6pm, Thu noon-6pm, Fri 1pm-6pm, & Sat 10am-5pm