Don't ask why, but we were in the County Clerk's office last week. Locked the bike up in front of 1 Center Street, proceeded past the security guards, into the basement, and there we were in a wonderful world of enormous leather bound books, high ceilings, and obscure, old school filing systems.
But it was Eileen McAleavey in room 109B who reminded us about the nearby Municipal Archives. "You can get old pictures of your block there," she said, and we remembered the pictures hanging on the brick wall of our mother's kitchen.
Beautiful black and white photos of our house on 78th street taken 100 years ago -- a working family standing stiffly by the stoop. Mom had also framed and hung the old surveyor's grids showing all the lots on our block
Eileen said the Archive has an enormous trove of all these things, and they will make you copies -- of grids or photos -- for $30 or $40. It looks like you can order some stuff directly via the site, though we recommend the trip. OHR
NB: Another good place for old photos of the city is www.art.com The shot above is from the Municipal Archive, part of the WPA Federal Writers' Project. It's an aerial view of Manhattan looking north from the Empire State Building in 1937.
(first published on 2004-05-05 - MGR)