Writing

The best way to research New York City

Despite the many glorious old buildings still kicking in New York, it can be hard to get a picture of what the city used to look like.

Well, not literally, because the library has thousands of them, and I just found out about it, and now you do too.

OldNYC is a mapping project using the New York Public Library's thousands and thousands of photos — from the year 1800 to the year 2000. The photos are laid out on a map of the five boroughs. Clicking on a red dot in a location will bring up all the old photos associated with that place.

And there are so many, y'all.

 OldNYC's photos, unfiltered.

OldNYC's photos, unfiltered.

You can filter the years to show specific time periods, but the slider was a little finicky for me. But I filtered down to 1907 - 1929 and Manhattan is still packed with promising red dots to click on.

I first heard about this project when I was touring St. John the Divine with my friend Austin Chant. It's the largest cathedral in the world, and the OldNYC project hosts what seem to be hundreds of photos of its construction, which began in 1892.

This is a hell of a resource if you're writing historical books, or if you simply want to look at the city in younger years.