Imagine a treasure trove of more than 700,000 images from one of the greatest cities on earth, capturing pre-war architecture in all its glory, and digitally archived for your photographic enjoyment. No, they aren’t professionally shot or technically perfect, but they are a feast for the eyes all the same.
New York City is an amazing wonderland to me. I am especially fond of the history and the architecture that has withstood hundreds of years of time. It is a special thrill to me to dine where George Washington once said farewell to his troops or to sip one of those beautifully dark ales from a small mug among the history found on the walls of McSorley’s Old Ale House. It is a joy to my heart to be wandering down a beautiful, tree-lined street in Greenwich Village and happen across a tiny, hidden cemetery, or a beautiful row of old carriage houses. Everywhere you turn is another chance to glimpse something breathtaking.
Imagine my delight when I recently came across this article by James Barron from the New York Times, showcasing a small sampling of this archive of virtually every building in the five boroughs captured on film in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The images were taken back then in an effort to assess taxes more fairly. What is really interesting to me is seeing the Times article comparisons of some the original photos with the buildings as they stand now. So much has changed, yet so much remains the same.
Join me on this little walk through the past. Because, what are we, as photographers, if not the world’s historians and archivists. Enjoy!
Lead image by Berenice Abbott, public domain.