The New York Public Library is actually comprised of four major research libraries and about 100 branches spread throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, but the Beaux Arts-style Stephen A. Schwarzman Building generally takes the title for itself. Home to a non-circulating collection of volumes on the humanities and social sciences, as well as a circulating children's collection, this landmark library is renowned both for its signature stone lions out front and for its free access to some of the most fascinating research materials in the world.
Highlights include an archive of New Yorkers' oral histories; firsthand accounts of Shackleton's explorations at the South Pole; a vast array of historical photos and maps from around the world; some of Shakespeare's earliest works; ancient Japanese scrolls; vintage baseball cards; and famous comic books.
The seven-story building itself was designed in 1902 by Beaux-Arts architecture specialists Carrère and Hastings, and finally opened in 1911. Its outdoor stone lions, nicknamed "Patience" and "Fortitude," greet visitors at the front steps. In 2008, billionaire financial adviser Stephen A. Schwarzman financed a $100 million expansion of the library system as a whole, and the main branch was renamed in his honor.