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.

Looking down West End Avenue from 100th Street in November 1930. Larger version here and nice shots looking North on West End from 70th here and North from 96th here.

A preliminary study of Belvedere Castle from 1867. See a blown-up version here and more images of the castle here.

The West side of Amsterdam Avenue between 72nd and 73rd in 1949. See a larger version here, plus more stores on the block here and here (image of the “Verdi Square Bar”).

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.

HISTORY, NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 26 comments | permalink
    1. caitlin says:

      thanks so much for posting these… talk about “time and again” — the west end pictures are wonderful!

    2. Harriet says:

      The photo called MAC 3000 (this) is clearly the west side of Broadway between 84th and 86th St. Euclid Hall is visible at the top and that 1930’s Art Deco taxpayer building which is still there at 84th St., is in the lower left.

    3. Ellen Dubin says:

      In response to your request for information on locations of the two photos you posted…I agree with the comment below – the first one you posted appears to be looking north, up Broadway, at (roughly) 84th Street. I believe the 4-storey building on the corner in the center of the photo, on the west side of Bdway, is the building that currently houses The Princeton Review.

    4. J. Amory says:

      Thank you for these. In the second photo for which you ask information, I recognize the Cake Master on Broadway, but not exactly where it was. Near 86th, I think.

      • admin says:

        Thanks to everyone who sent us tips about the mystery photos. We’ll let the archivists know!

    5. Great post, especially the then-and-now shot of the Lincoln Square area.

      We have some 1940s-era photos of the Upper West Side (called “Central Park West” back then) at our 1940s NY site: http://bit.ly/N35ZQ4

      The website also has maps of local rents at the time and more from the 1940 Census. Feel free to use the info to supplement the Municipal Archives photos.

      Steve Romalewski
      Director, CUNY Mapping Service

    6. Tim says:

      the MAC 3000 picture is 100% looking down on the block between 83rd and 84th ont he west side of Broadway – if you look at google maps at the same block at the art deco building, you can see they both are partitioned into 9 sections and the staircase at bottom left is the staircase i walk by every day on the way home…

    7. Pam Yoder says:


      I live across the street from here. This photo looks north, and shows the Westside of Broadway between 83rd St. & 84th St. The smaller building in the middle to the left, by the side street, now houses 5 Napkin Burger (formerly Ollie’s). And I recognize the building in the foreground on the left. The flat apartment windows on the corner of the building – and though it is blurry, the intricate entrance to that same apartment building on the 83rd street side.

      I hope this is helpful – I can explain in more detail if needed.

      Pam 🙂

      MAC: Municipal Archives Collection
      Urban renewal
      View of apartment buildings from rooftop [Upper West Side?]
      8×10 inches
      Gelatin-silver print

    8. Cato says:

      I agree that mac_3000 is taken looking north on Broadway at 84th Street (though I believe that Princeton Review moved out some time ago). I also agree, as pointed out above, that the same photo shows Euclid Hall, at the southwest corner of Broadway and 86th.

      But I also believe that the other “mystery” photo, mac_2995, is *also* the same Euclid Hall in close-up. If you compare the building in 2995 with the longer-range view in 3000, they are pretty clearly the same.

    9. Steven Stark says:

      I would LOVE to see old photos of Amsterda, Avenue between 77th and 78th streets. Anything showing my store, Beacon Paint & Hardware

      • Beth says:

        Steven, I recently passed by your block and was glad to see your store, one of the few “classic” Upper West Side lingering businesses.

      • admin says:

        Thanks Steven. I checked the archives and didn’t see any shots of your store, but I’ll keep an eye out. Beacon is certainly a classic!

    10. Jean Kweskin says:

      Broadway Fashion Buikding is the first photo you were asking about. Art Deco Buikding.

    11. Jean Kweskin says:

      Broadway at 86th street is the photo with matching apartments.

    12. Jean Kweskin says:

      Sorry. Correction. The Broadway Fashion building is on Broadway and 84th.

    13. TDV says:

      The photo labeled “Riverside Park football field” wasn’t taken near 90th Street, but taken along the promenade that overlooks the athletic fields from about 101st Street to 110th Street. The photo was probably taken from the raised terrace between 101st and 102nd Streets.

    14. As a second generation native New Yorker I find these pictures fascinating! My mom was born in the Bronx to immigrant parents from Russia and Poland, and my father and his sister and parents fled from the Nazis in Austria in 1939, when he was just 12. These pictures serve as a reminder to all of us who love this city just where it started and where we come from.
      Sincerely, Andrea Gruber.

    15. David Pollack says:

      Regarding the two photos you posted without locations on your “Old Upper West Side” photos page, the first one is West side of Broadway between 83rd Street and 84th Street. The second one is the West Side of Broadway between 85th Street and 86th Street. Those are easy ones…

    16. Nicole Verity says:

      The 1st mystery photo of the Upper West Side ((where you ask if we know where they are taken from) is taken from the top, presumably, of a building at the SE corner of Broadway and W. 83rd St, looking down at the divided avenue below…Broadway. The distinctively patterned building on the nearest corner is still there. The trees which now shade the islands up and down B’way are bigger now but the view is essentially the same, I’d say.

    17. Steve says:

      The first picture that you want to “pinpoint” is facing west onto Broadway between 83rd and 84.

      • Steve says:

        Didn’t realize I was the 10,000th person to identify the location. Why doesn’t the cite update the narrative text and identify the location now that they know it?

    18. Eric Weston says:

      The photo BPM_1638-13 is actually looking north-east at the east side of Amsterdam avenue btwn. 72nd and 73rd Street as Verdi Park was on the west side of Amsterdam. You can see Central Savings Bank (now Apple Bank) in the reflection of the Marshals sign.

    19. Lyndie Callan says:

      I had my hair done in 1972 at the “hair design” place in the Ed Koch picture when my dad was getting re-married. I was 12 years old and wanted to sleep sitting up that night so I wouldn’t mess up my “do”.

    20. Thank you SO MUCH for this introduction. Wouldn’t it be grand to bring back no-pollution, low energy consumption trolley cars? My Mother was born on Claremont Avenue and had clear memories of Armistice celebrations and day to day living on 134th Street between the wars.

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