NY Public Library Lions Undergoing $250K Restoration

new york public library lions
Patience, the lion on the south side of the library steps. (GK12)

The iconic marble lions flanking the stairs of the New York Public Library are about to undergo a $250,000 cleaning and restoration.

AM New York reports that the nine-week project will begin on Sept. 2.

“We love the lions here at the library; they really are our mascots,” said Iris Weinshall, chief operating officer of the New York Public Library. “But they are out there in the cold and the rain and the snow … every seven or eight years they have to go to the spa.”

The lions, known as Patience and Fortitude, are carved from pink Tennessee marble, and have graced the stairs since the Library’s dedication in 1911.

new york public library lions
The lions covered in snow in December 1948. (United States Information Agency)

The lions were first called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after 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). During the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude, for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. Those names have stuck.

The library hires experts to evaluate the condition of the lions and then perform delicate work to keep them clean and shore up any cracks in their bodies.

The last restoration was in 2011, and prior to that in 2004. The work includes cleaning and filling cracks as well as removing and replacing damaged pieces of stone.

“It varies really depending upon the weather cycles,” said Gerry Oliva, senior director of facilities and operations at the NYPL. “With the last couple of winters that we’ve had, we noticed more deteriorations.”