Morgan Library & Museum Announces $12.5 Million Restoration Project

Morgan Library & Museum Announces $12.5 Million Restoration Project

Following a $4.5 million restoration of the grand interior of its McKim building in 2010, the Morgan Library & Museum announced on Thursday that it plans to shine its exterior.

The museum’s upcoming restoration marks the first time that the McKim’s neoclassical exterior has been touched since it was built in 1906. During a press conference on Thursday morning, the library’s director, Colin B. Bailey, revealed that conservation plans have been in the making for two years and include comprehensive efforts to preserve the building’s Tennessee limestone walls, decorative features, roof and sculptures (some of which have already been removed for work), in addition to the creation of a new lighting scheme and a substantial garden.

“It’s our duty to attend to these issues,” said Bailey. “They impact not only the exterior of the building but the safety of its interior and the collections housed within it.”

Madison Avenue near East 36th Street. J.P. Morgan Library. Wurts Bros. (New York, NY), ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York.

Designed by architect Charles Follen McKim, the library, with its floor-to-ceiling Circassian walnut shelves, houses some of the museum’s most treasured works and serves as an exhibition space.

“I want a gem,” proclaimed Pierpont Morgan when he commissioned the building. McKim delivered, sparing no expense while conceiving the $1.2 million Gilded Age landmark.

A century later, in 2006, the Morgan undertook an expansion project, designed by Renzo Piano, to join the three buildings contained on its campus — the Annex, the McKim and the brownstone residence of Pierpont Morgan’s son, Jack. As part of its function, the structure also shifted the museum’s main entrance away from the Annex on East 36th Street to the new Morgan-Renzo Piano Building on Madison Avenue.

Stone shed with architectural details for the loggia of J. Pierpont Morgan’s library, ca. 1903. Museum of the City of New York.

As a result, “the historic part of the campus has received a little less attention,” said Bailey. “The surrounding garden and lighting will assist in reinvigorating the most historical portion of our campus and make us stand out against the dense cultural landscape.”

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“Restoring the sublime exterior of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library is far and away our most important capital project for the next decade,” said Bailey in a statement. “This is our responsibility. And, in many respects, it is our privilege.”

Work on the scaffolding supporting the restoration is set to begin tomorrow. In total, the project will cost $12.5 million and will take until the fall of 2020 to complete.

Top Image: J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library in winter, 2011, Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber.