The Ottendorfer Branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) at 135 Second Avenue was designated an individual New York City landmark September 20, 1977. The library was built in 1883-4 by Oswald Ottendorfer, a wealthy German newspaper magnate, along with the adjoining Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital. These buildings are both representative of Kleindeutschland, or “Little Germany,” a German immigrant community that existed in what is now the East Village and Lower East Side back in the late 19th/ early 20th century. We have previously discussed this building in previous posts on its first floor interior designation, as well as on the libraries of the village.
In the 1977 designation report, the Ottendorfer Library is described as follows:
The Ottendorfer Library is the oldest branch library in Manhattan and one of the earliest buildings in the city constructed specifically as a public library. Designed in 1883-1884 by the German-born architect William Schickel, it is a particularly interesting example of late Victorian architecture exhibiting elements of both the neo-Italian Renaissance and the Queen Anne styles. Built in conjunction with the German Dispensary, now the Stuyvesant Poly-clinic, next door, the library was the gift of Anna and Oswald Ottendorfer, German-American philanthropists who concerned themselves with the welfare of the German population centered on the Lower East Side in the mid to late 19th century. The juxtaposition of the library and the clinic building is by no means coincidental. Rather it reflects the 19th-century philosophy, particularly influential in Germany, of developing the individual both physically and mentally. Ottendorfer’s desire was to help to uplift both the body and the mind of his fellow Germans in the United States (“dem Korpen und dem Geisten zu helfen”).
Today the library still functions as one of the oldest branches of the New York Public Library and serves as a reminder of the enduring architectural legacy of Kleindeutschland, which is still visible around the East Village.