Old School NYC Photos

In last week’s NY Mag “Approval Matrix,” an item in the Highbrow/Brilliant quadrant caught my eye:

870,000 city photographs–some 150+ years old–are now available at nyc.gov

Curious about what kinds of photos were online, I went to the site and learned this: Between 1939 and 1941, and again between 1983 and 1988, the city photographed every building in the five boroughs for tax purposes. You can now purchase prints–or just sift through the online archives of 35mm photos taken in the 1980s.

I clicked on the Manhattan photos and searched for my current Washington Heights apartment. The archive contained photos of neighboring residences, but not mine.

Then I looked up my second-most recent address, also in Washington Heights. This time, a snapshot of my old building came up.

I’ll admit that the result didn’t wow me. The building is from 1929 and looks pretty much the same now as it did in the ’80s.

So I decided to go way back. I clicked over to the Queens photos and typed in the street where I lived from when I was born until I was 10. As the photos appeared, I instantly recognized old neighbors’ homes. And there was the house I grew up in, looking exactly how I remembered, with my family’s blue Volvo and my dad’s black van in the driveway.

I haven’t lived there in nearly two decades, so seeing the house exactly as it was felt surreal–a pretty cool (and slightly creepy) discovery!

(Photos via nyc.gov)

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