About Us

Who Are Those People in the Stairwells?

From the Library Notes Newsletter, Sunday, June 1, 2003

In 1917, the Library, then located on University Place, received a major bequest from Sarah Parker Goodhue which later allowed the purchase of the current building. The bequest included books, furniture, china (now in the Members' Room) and twelve portraits of the family of Mrs. Goodhue's husband. The portraits, giving us a glimpse of seven generations of New York lives, can be found throughout the building. A sampling:

The Reverend David Clarkson (1622-1686) born in Yorkshire, England, was a notable Puritan clergyman whose sermons included "The Doctrine of Justification is Dangerously Corrupted by the Roman Church." His son Matthew emigrated to New York, where he served as a patent official in the 1690s. The Reverend's portrait hangs in the main stairwell.

His great-great-grandson, General Matthew Clarkson (1758-1825), rose to fame in the Revolution, where he served with Benedict Arnold and Major General Benjamin Lincoln. Later he was elected to the New York State assembly and the State senate; he also became a successful businessman and president of the Bank of New York. He was noted for his civic and philanthropic endeavors, which included service to the infant Columbia University, New York Hospital, and many other organizations. Clarkson Street in Greenwich Village and the town of Clarkson, New York are both named for him. His portrait is also in the main stairwell.

Elizabeth Clarkson (1793-1820) and Catherine Rutherfurd Clarkson (1794-1861) were two of the General's eight children. Elizabeth's portrait is in the Members' Room and Catherine's in the main stairwell. Catherine married Jonathan Goodhue, son of U.S. Congressman Benjamin Goodhue (1748-1814).

The Library owns images of four of the children of Catherine Rutherfurd Clarkson and Jonathan Goodhue, plus two of their spouses. Their son Charles Clarkson Goodhue is commemmorated with a plaque in the entry hall, and his wife, our benefactor Sarah Parker Goodhue, can be seen in charcoal opposite the main elevator on the first floor. Her generous bequest gave the Library not only its beautiful building, but also a look at history through the faces of the Clarksons and the Goodhues.