Yesterday I posted about giving historical photographs from the Municipal Archives, The New York Public Library, The Museum of the City of New York or Shorpys for holiday gifts. And I wanted to be more clear about one cool thing you can do that I only briefly mentioned.
In the 1930’s through 1941, pictures were taken of every building in the five boroughs of New York, and they were taken again in the 1980’s. This was done for tax purposes. I have the 1930’s shot of my building (I was less interested in the 1980’s shot) and I’ve given 1930’s shots of buildings to others as gifts in the past. Another cool thing about this is you never know what else is going to be in the shot. The one of my building has this great old car in it. The Municipal Archives has these photographs and everything you need to order them is here.
Also, it’s worth it to go to each of the places I have links to (except Shorpy perhaps) and type in your address. You never know if there might be other photographs of your building (or street) in there. Your building might have been the site of a murder or something else! It’s also worth it to go to the first Municipal Archives link I posted, because there might be other photographs of your building besides the tax photographs.
While I’m at it, another fun thing to do it to go to the New York Times website, type in your address in the search box, and when it comes back make sure the “All Since 1851” date range is selected. If your building has ever been in the news, all the articles will come back.
Even better, go the the New York Public Library and do the same thing in the Proquest Historical Newspapers database. This searches all the newspapers they have online (and they have a lot now). FYI, a lot of very cool databases are accessible from home if you have a library card, but not the Proquest Historical Newspapers database. But other cool Proquest databases are (as well as many other databases, journals, etc.), it’s really worth exploring. You can start looking around here. If the resource has a little house next to it, you can use it from home. But if you live in New York, the 42nd Street branch of the library is a beautiful place to explore from.
I’ve done this for my building and have learned about some interesting people who have lived here, and died here, and other things that have happened here (crimes, but nothing very serious).
PS: There is much much more you can do to learn about the history of your building. I could go on. Actually, the NYPL has a nice page about it. Christopher Gray has great instructions. These are the ones I used when I researched my building.
A couple more shots I took the last time I was at Ft. Tryon Park. Which I love.