Episode 8 – Reinterpreting the Pantheon in the Bronx: The Gould Memorial Library

The Gould Memorial Library is my favorite building in New York City. I just get goosebumps looking at it. For my views on it, visit my blog posting on Gotham Center’s blog (which is great if you love New York City’s history, art, architecture and culture). It is remarkable in its own right, but the presence of the Gould Memorial Library at New York University’s University Heights Campus and the Low Library at Columbia University affirms that the Pantheon was a building that brought cultural and intellectual status and authority to those building in its style.
Pantheon, exterior, By Yair Haklai, CC BY-SA 3.0
The exterior had a double porch, whose origin is debated – was it that the 60 Roman foot columns of granite did not turn up and so 50 foot columns had to do? Also despite the building stating that Marcus Agrippa built, this version primarily dates to the reign of Trajan (finished off by Hadrian with modifications by the Severan Dynasty), for more details, see Hetland in the bibliography.
Pantheon, Interior, By Stefan Bauer, CC BY-SA 2.5

The interior was actually more impressive – if one blew up a balloon 150 Roman feet into a perfect sphere, it would fit inside the dome. The Pantheon’s interior was covered in marble and stone imported from across the empire.

Reinterpreting the Pantheon

The Italians get on this early on and look. The Villa Capra – la Rotonda – is one of Palladio’s most famous buildings (although he did not complete it) .

La Rotonda, Vicenza, Italy
By Marco Bagarella, CC BY-SA 3.0

And don’t forget Monticello and the Rotunda at the University of Virgina – but I bet you are starting to get the idea…

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, By Martin Falbisoner, CC BY-SA 3.0


The Gould Memorial Library and the Low Library…Everyone needs a Pantheon in New York City

Gould Memorial Library, postcard (author)
You can really see the stacking of the two pediments and the dome, clearly evoking the Pantheon.
Gould Memorial Library, Interior, Bestbudbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0
The Gould Memorial Library’s interior rivaled that of the original Pantheon.
Low Memorial Library, Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Low Library at Columbia was also built at almost the same time and it does suggest that Charles McKim and Stanford White were competitively building.
Hetland, Lise M. “Dating the Pantheon.”Journal of Roman Archaeology 20 (January 2007): 95–112.
Macaulay-Lewis, Elizabeth. “The Gould Memorial Library and Hall of Fame: Reinterpreting the Pantheon in the Bronx.” In Classical New York: Discovering Greece and Rome in Gotham, edited by Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis and Matthew M. McGowan, 85–114. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018.