In Brief

The New York Public Library’s Iconic Lions Are Taking a Cat Nap

Patience and Fortitude, the 108-year-old lions that have guarded the Library’s Main Branch since 1911, will be covered for cleanup and repair beginning September 2.

Guarding the New York Public Library since 1911 (photo by Jonathan Blanc, courtesy of the New York Public Library)

Patience and Fortitude, the pair of lion statues guarding the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Main Branch on 42nd Street in Manhattan, New York are getting their first overhaul in eight years. The lions, which have perched at the entrance to the librarys Stephen A. Schwarzman Building since 1911, will be covered for nine weeks beginning September 2.

The 108-year-old lions will receive a series of conservation treatments, including a laser cleaning, grout to fill in their cracks, and a reinforcement of previous repairs. According to NYPL, the marble lions need a cleanup and have several minor cracks and chips accumulated over time. They were last conserved in 2011, and before that in 2004. The latest conservation project will cost $250,000.

“The lions have earned some time at the spa,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx. “For over 100 years, they have stoically guarded our building on bustling Fifth Avenue, delighting visitors and providing calm hope at all times that with knowledge we will prevail. They are the true kings of this city, beloved by all. As great stewards of this building, it is critical that we maintain the lions and ensure that they are strong to inspire everyone for generations to come.”

Carved in the Bronx studios of the Piccirilli Brothers, the Tennessee pink marble statues require conservation every seven to 10 years. The lions were named by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia during the Depression to symbolize the “patience and fortitude” that New Yorkers needed to survive that trying period. In addition to the lions, the library is currently restoring three ornamental plaster ceilings in its building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Those renovations are expected to be completed by September 30.

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