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225 Madison Avenue (at 36th Street)
American financier and banker John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was one of the "Robber Barons" who controlled American business during the "Guilded Age" of the late 19th and early 20th century. He was also a voracious collector of books, pictures and other art objects. To house his book collection, he had a library designed by famed architectural firm McKim, Mead & White and build adjacent to his Madison Avenue mansion between 1902 and 1906.
In 1924, Morgan's son, J.P. Morgan Jr., made the library into a public institution dedicated to books as works of art and the complex grew over the years to encompass most of the block. A 75,000 square-foot set of pavillions designed by Renzo Piano opened in 2006 to unify the disparate historic buildings and provide much-needed additional exibition space and visitor amenities. While the airy final result is not unpleasant to visit, the contrast between contemporary and classic architecture is jarring, much like the paradoxical contrast between the aristocracy and democracy represented by Morgan's titanic influence on the American experience.
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