joy magnetism: Reading room

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reading room

Magnet #893 - William Howard Taft (1909 - 1913)

Poor Taft. Hovering somewhere around 300 pounds, William Howard Taft was indeed our heaviest and largest president.

Remember that Cow on the White House Lawn book I read a long time ago? The Taft story I remember from that is that he's the only president who got stuck in his bathtub. But, I think that's just an urban legend. He supposedly ordered the largest bathtub ever for the White House, though.

Another Taft legend was that he unwittingly invented the seventh-inning stretch. He went to a baseball game, and having to squeeze into the wooden seats, he couldn't take it, and by the seventh inning, he got up to take a stroll. Others thought he was leaving, so they got up as well. And thus was born the YMCA yardrakers seventh-inning stretch.

I'm just using Taft for today, because he visited New York to attend the opening of the first New York Public Library main branch in 1911. I took the tour this afternoon, and it's such a wonderful building.

I don't know why we don't build more things out of marble these days, but Carrère and Hastings' Beaux-Arts architectural style of the main branch is just breathtaking. We went walking around Astor Hall, where the soft-spoken guide explained that the marble was from Vermont. And then into the periodicals room, where the wood was French something or other. And then the new modern steel and glass addition nestled in the heart of the library. And the story of the written word in four WPA-painted panels in the McGraw Rotunda. And the tw0-block long reading room on the top floor. Oh! And a Guttenberg Bible!

Seriously. A really great tour, even if I couldn't hear the guide. I will admit, though, that it was fascinating to roam one of the back halls and see some of the 88 miles of stacks they had hidden from general view...mostly because about 20 years ago, my sister and I came to visit the library, and we were so excited to visit the library, and we walked and walked and walked, and lord help us, we couldn't find a single book anywhere. We seriously didn't understand why the main branch didn't have any books!

Now we know.

Actually, there's something scary and fun about the fact that they're gonna turn the main branch of the library into an actual lending library, and move the current stacks into a new facility under Bryant Park!

Jeepers, I can't wait for that tour!
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1 comment:

julie said...

why comes your magnet photo is all pixel-y? taft seems nice... thanks for the 7th inning stretch, buddy!