The city released a set of more than 800,000 photos from the municipal archives earlier this year in a searchable Internet database. The archive is frankly pretty incredible — there are photos from the NYPD, the parks department, the mayor’s office, and many more agencies, as well as shots taken by WPA photographers during the Depression. There are maps and drawings, audio recordings and even mugshots from the DA’s office.
The West Side Rag received permission from the archives to post some of those photos in smaller formats here. The database is easy to search using keywords or you can browse through the collections from each agency. If you find anything noteworthy, please send us the link. We’d love to share more of these. Given that they were just released online this year, many haven’t been seen by a wider audience.
Here are some of the gems we found:
This photo from November 10, 1927 shows Lincoln Square and the elevated train there. The photographer was looking northwest from 65th Street and Columbus Avenue. Here is a link to a larger version of the photo. And this photo gives an even better sense of the sheer bulk of those trains. The elevated trains on 9th Avenue (renamed Columbus), built mostly in the late 19th Century, helped turn the Upper West Side from a village of estates and grand apartment buildings into a densely packed urban neighborhood. The elevated train stopped operating around 1940. Below is a view from a similar location (65th and Columbus) today:
Below is my favorite image I’ve found so far in the archives:
This is an image of Hoovervilles from the Great Depression (photo is from sometime between 1930 and 1932) at the edge of the Hudson River in Riverside Park at 79th Street. See the ice on the river and the snow on the ground? How did people survive that? Here’s a larger version.
And a more idyllic scene…
Boys race their sailboats on Central Park’s Conservatory pond. Date is unclear. Larger version here.
The view looking North from 70th Street around Sherman Square at the intersection of Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus. Shot taken between 1926 and 1928. Can you see the Ansonia? The 72nd Street subway station? An old trolley car? Here’s a larger version and another view from nearby.
Ed Koch talks with Upper West Siders on 105th Street in 1983. Want to see his shiny head in larger form? Click here.
Riverside Park football field, looking Northwest at around 90th Street. Date uncertain. Larger.
Looking West from Columbus Avenue at 61st Street in April 1931. Today, you’d be looking into the campus of Fordham University. Larger version here.
Looking East on Amsterdam Avenue and 100th Street, from the archives of Fiorello LaGuardia, 1934. On the corner is Ludwig’s Cafeteria. Larger view here.
Looking West from Columbus Avenue at 99th Street as the sewer is constructed in 1928. Larger image here.
There are also numerous mysteries in the archives, particularly where the photos don’t have much information attached to them. We would love to be able to pinpoint the locations of photos like this and this, which are presumably on the Upper West Side. If you know anything about the photos, let us know and we’ll try to alert the municipal archives folks so they can add more descriptive information.
Please leave your reactions to the photos in the comments and send us links to any interesting photos you find. Happy hunting!
For more historic images of the Upper West Side, check out our piece on a photographer who took pictures of storefronts in 1982, and a home movie shot in 1971.