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There are 13 secret apartments hidden above NYC libraries

Written by
Rebecca Fontana
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Photograph: Courtesy New York Public Library

About 100 years ago, people used to live in hidden apartments above New York’s public libraries—and some of them still remain.

Today, the secret spaces look more like haunted houses than actual apartments. (Some haven’t been lived in for about 25 years.) The custodians who used to care for the libraries’ furnaces lived above the books until electricity made them obsolete, and most of their abodes have been turned into storage areas. But some of them remain eerily empty.

The top floor of the Fort Washington branch is still abandoned, with peeling paint and a rusty dumbwaiter shaft. The three-bedroom apartment is no longer used for residents, but you can try to sneak a peek in the third-floor windows from the street.

Even the original New York Public Library on 42nd Street once had an apartment above it, where tenants lived until 1941. But these secret spots won’t remain empty forever—the rooms above the Washington Heights library are opening again as an expansion very soon.  

The polls are open! Vote for your favorite spots that deserve a Love New York Award.

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