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Step Inside a Secret Library Apartment | Atlas Obscura


– On the top floor of
a library in Manhattan, there is a secret apartment, and it’s been left empty for years. I’m Sarah Laskow. I’m a senior
writer at Atlas Obscura, and this is the secret apartment at the Fort Washington
Library in Manhattan. Back at the beginning of the 20th century, Andrew Carnegie gave the
city $5.2 million dollars to build libraries all over the city. They all look a little bit like this one, with these big, sweeping windows that are supposed to keep
the buildings light and cool. Downstairs, it looks like
pretty much any library. Upstairs though, it’s a
completely different place. Someone who works for
the library once told me it feels to them like being
in a haunted house, even. Walking up the stairs,
you can sort of feel that. There’s this water stain
coming down one of the walls, and the stairs are
pretty, but they’re dirty. And there’s this like white plaster falling from the ceiling. The first thing you see
when you get up there is this big room, and
it would have been used as a public space, maybe for lectures, or meetings, or dances. But the really cool, surprising
thing here is the apartment. It’s pretty much a dream to
live in a library, right? I mean, at least for me. The first time I came here, it was creepy. The light switches weren’t
working, so it was really dark, and we had to watch where we stepped, because they told me the
floors weren’t really safe. But one of the first things I noticed was how bright the walls are. I mean, whoever lived here wanted to make it feel welcoming and fun. It’s a pretty big, sweet apartment. I mean, I think most people
that I know in New York would be really happy to live here. You can just feel what
it would have been like. In one of the rooms, there’s a mirror, and I can imagine standing there and just checking what I
look like before going out. I did get to meet someone once who lived in an apartment like this. The buildings were
heated by coal back then, and the custodians had to keep feeding the furnaces all day and all night. Since they had to be
available all the time, it just made sense for them
to live in the library. So, these apartments were built for them, and for their families, too. Now there are just 13 of these left. I mean, this is an
enormous amount of space to go unused right in the
middle of New York City. And when the buildings stopped using coal and the custodians retired, the library would just
shut up the apartments. But now, they’re trying
to repurpose all this room by converting the
apartments to public spaces. If everything goes according to plan, the library will repurpose
this apartment, too. And, you know, everyone I
tell that to is disappointed, because it really would
be awesome to live here. Thanks so much for watching. If you wanna know about more
amazing places like this one, subscribe to our channel, or just click to watch more videos. In the comments, we would
love it if you would tell us about your dream apartment,
and where it might be located.

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