NYC Photo Archive: 1,000,000 Photos Online. Here’s a Sample.

Some of you may remember my previous posts of photos taken of street scenes in Newark, N.J. and New York City.  Well, I have recently discovered a photo source that tops everything else when it comes to photographs of this type.  It seems that the City of New York has undertaken a project of tremendous scope, digitizing all the historical photographs and images that have been hiding in their files for so many years, thus making them available to the public.

This is truly Gotham’s attic, with everything from Civil War military parades to personal checks written out and signed by Joe DiMaggio.  I put together a collection of screen shots from the collection (focusing on cars), just to give CC readers a taste of what is available.  Let’s take a look:

I mostly included pictures from the Department of Public Works.  What I like about these is that they are pictures of things that most people would not normally take pictures of.  You can find lots of old pictures of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty, but how many people would think of taking pictures of everyday cars parked in a vacant lot in the Bronx?

Of course, the original purpose of these shots was to document sites for possible construction projects, but little did the city-employed photographers suspect that they would be showing us glimpses of authentic history in the process.  These pictures also show us the cars as they actually were, which is very different experience from going to a car show to see so many of the surviving examples over-restored, customized, or rodded.

Unfortunately, the City puts this ugly watermark across the online images. But if you go to the NYC photo archive site and see a picture you really like, the City will sell you a high-quality print for $45 to $120 each plus shipping, and then you can have a clean copy of your very own forever.


Cars parked next to the Queensboro Bridge at 59th St. January 13th, 1959.


“SHEL ” station, Manhattan Ave. & Ash St., Brooklyn. October 31, 1958


Cars crammed into tiny parking lot, Commercial & Manhattan Avenues, Brooklyn. November 20th, 1958.


128 Greenpoint Ave., Brooklyn. March 19th, 1959.


Parking area, Broadway and 225th St., Bronx.  April 14th, 1955.  Is that a 1920s/early ’30s car tucked in there?


Car wreck in front of the Brooklyn Bridge Office. April 18th, 1940.


D.P.W. Emergency Wrecker. March 20th, 1939.


Stone sidewalk, 2335 Hughes Ave., Bronx. April 28th, 1939.


There’s a section of the site with tax photos. You can see photos taken in 1940 or 1980 of almost any building in the 5 boroughs. The sign in the foreground shows block and lot numbers.  “M” stands for Manhattan.


Not all curbside classics were motor-driven. “BK” stands for Brooklyn.


Gas station in the Bronx.


AMC Pacer X in front of China Dragon store, 528 E. 148th St., Bronx, 1980.


Finally, one from my own collection (in color even!) Bronx or Westchester County, 1947.