25 January 2008

Patience and Fortitude, Those Goddamn Library Lions

I never realised the significance of the two marble lions who sit so proudly before the majestic Beaux-Arts building of The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. I just knew that for some reason tourists really love to pose for pictures in front of them. I'd somehow mentioned the lions in passing to a friends mother who is quite wise and she assured me they did have a significance. I was just naive.

I'd even wager 8 out of 10 New Yorkers have no idea who they are or what they symbolise or whatever. I just thought they were two, fancy, grand, exquisite marble lions. Hey, score one for the tourists. They knew more than me. Then again, I've had many, many friends in from out of town and overseas and not one of them has ever asked if we could go see the marble lions, ever.

Have the lions been blown out of proportion to tourists and travelers? They're dying to come see these stone slabs and we're like "uhh...". Were they told since birth that these two lions were the centerpiece of New York City? The pride and joy of Manhattan Island?

Smug Bitch

Tons of buildings and homes have limestone or brass lion heads adorning their grand entranceways as fountains, cartouches, door knockers and stairway statues. I just figured the majestic Beaux-Arts building wanted a grandiose entranceway. Something to match those exalted Corinthian columns. It seemed fitting. Especially for 1911 when the building was erected.
I had no idea the two marble lions were nicknamed 'Patience and Fortitude' by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to inspire residents during the Great Depression. Nothing like being inspired by a piece of marble.

Sit, Patience. Stay.

Now I'm reading these fucking lions are "New York City icons as recognizable as the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge." Oh, are they? Maybe to some tourists they are but certainly not to New Yorkers. Or any tourists I've ever been a tour guide for. But go on Flickr and search "Patience and Fortitude". It's certifiably hysterical.

Apparently their nicknames have changed over the decades.

First they were called 'Leo Astor and Leo Lenox', after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox.

Later, they were known as 'Lady Astor and Lord Lenox' (even though they are both male lions).

Hungry Fortitude eyes big salad.

Then during the 1930's, LaGuardia named them 'Patience and Fortitude', for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. And these names have stood the test of time: Patience still guards the south side of the Library's steps and Fortitude sits unwaveringly to the north. Unwaveringly, like only a piece of marble can.

As a tribute to the Lions' popularity and all that they stand for, the Library adopted these figures as its mascots. They are trademarked by the Library, represented in its logo, and featured at major occasions.

Where the FUCK is the X37?

I dunno. The library is fucking gorgeous inside that's all I know. 88 miles of shelves on four levels and an additional 44 miles on two levels under Bryant Park, the marble staircases, the shining chandeliers, intricately designed ceilings and moldings, the colorful historic murals, the old-fashioned pneumatic book system ... So I stand corrected. For once the tourists were right.

This one is my personal favourite:


Anonymous said...

is that rachel in the top picture? w\ an umbrella?

Gotham City Insider said...

That girl looks nothing like Rachel.