NYPL’s beloved lions will roar to life with $250K restoration

The 108-year-old lions are getting a much-needed makeover

315A3858.0 NYPL’s beloved lions will roar to life with $250K restorationJonathan Blanc/New York Public Library

The majestic marble lions that have guarded the New York Public Library’s Schwartzman Building for more than 100 years are getting a much-needed facelift.

The two lions that flank the library building’s Fifth Avenue entrance, dubbed Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia during the Great Depression, will receive a $250,000 cleaning and restoration over nine-week beginning the week of September 2.

“The lions have earned some time at the spa,” said New York Public Library President Anthony Marx. “As great stewards of this building, it is critical that we maintain the lions and ensure that they are strong to inspire everyone for generations to come.”

Patience is on the south side of the library entrance and Fortitude is located on the north. Each were carved in the Piccirilli Brothers’ Bronx studio and have watched over the Beaux-Arts landmarked library since 1911. Made of porous Tennessee pink marble, the lions must be restored every seven to ten years because of the toll taken from the elements, traffic exhaust, and adventurous visitors who scale the stone felines.

The lions were last conserved in 2011. This year’s restoration efforts are made possible by a grant from the New York Life Foundation and donations from hundreds of New Yorkers. WJE Engineers and Architects will assess the stoic gatekeepers and then repairs will be made, including filling in cracks with grout and a long-lasting laser cleaning that won’t damage the stone.

Both sculptures will be encases in protective plywood during the work as crews with Integrated Conservation Contracting meticulously revitalize the historic creatures.

“We know it will be hard to have them covered for nine weeks, but we ask the public to have patience and fortitude,” said Marx. “This work is critical and must be done.”