When it was first completed in 1912, Diocesan House served as a training school for deaconesses and was known as Saint Faith’s House. The House was designed by Heins and LaFarge in a Tudor-Gothic style. After the school’s closing in 1950, the House was converted to hold the administrative offices of the Diocese of New York, as well as the Cathedral archives. The east end of the building contains the Cathedral Library, originally established in 1957. It consists of about ten thousand volumes, focusing on theological writings. It is now known as the Madeleine L’Engle Library, in honor of its longtime librarian and celebrated author who served the Cathedral community for over forty years.
Madeleine L’Engle Library, a Literary Landmark
The Cathedral’s library is named for Madeleine L’Engle, acclaimed author of over sixty books for children and adults, most notably the Newberry Medal-winner A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle served as the Cathedral’s librarian and was a member of the Cathedral community for over forty years. Much of her writing occurred in the library, with its windows looking out over the Cathedral Close. L’Engle was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2004, and was named a member of the New York State Writers Hall of Fame in 2011.
L’Engle’s writings were grounded in her strong belief in the power of imagination, and that of good over evil, while also incorporating her interest in contemporary politics and science. While some of her books are considered “young adult” classics, L’Engle did not design them for a particular audience. Rather, she believed that “you have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
After her death in 2007, L’Engle was memorialized at the Cathedral. In the fall of 2012, the library where she worked and wrote for so many years was designated a Literary Landmark by the American Library Association. The official plaque can be found on the outer wall of Diocesan House, near the building’s east entrance.