5 Great Places to Find Historic NYC Photos

By Sophie Kaufman

At Eldridge Street, we are often looking for great historic photographs that help tell the story of our landmark site, the historic Lower East Side, and immigration to New York City. Here we share five of our favorite on-line historic photo resources perfect for uncovering vintage photographs, newspaper clippings, videos, recordings and more!

Vintage postcard of the LES found on Ephemeral New York.

Vintage postcard of the LES found on Ephemeral New York.

Our Favorite Online Resources:

1. The Museum of the City of New York

Go to the Collections Portal to explore the more than 135,000 images from the City Museum’s collections, all relating to New York City history. We are big fans of their Yiddish Theatre and Jacob Riis collections. You can explore their content more easily by using their research tabs of  “Highlights”, “Themes”, “Borough”, “Formats”, and “Exhibitions.” Also, make sure to check out the Arthur Rothstein collection for beautiful photographs of New York’s social scene in the 1940’s and 1950’s

2. Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution as well as largest library in the world. Go to the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog of their website to search for photographs, fine and popular prints, drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. Their anthology is split into specific, themed collections to make your research process easier.

3. The New York Public Library

The NYPL provides open access to over 800,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library’s vast collections. Their online database includes illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more. Use their research tabs of “Arts & Literature”, “Cities & Buildings”, “Culture & Society”, “History & Geography”, “Industry & Technology”, “Nature & Science”, and “Printing & Graphics” to explore their content more easily.

4. NYC Department of Records – Municipal Building

If you are looking for a historic photo of a NYC building, the Municipal Archives is the place to to. Between 1939 and 1941, and again in the mid-1980s, the city photographed every house and building in the five boroughs. Photographic prints of these buildings are available to purchase here on the Municipal Archives’ website. The Archives also has over 870,000 images relating to the City of New York available online.

The facade of Eldridge Street Synagogue from the Municipal Archive.

The facade of Eldridge Street Synagogue from the Municipal Archive.

5. Ephemeral New York

Ephemeral New York is a beautifully well-researched blog that highlights historical information relating to Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. The posts are a treasure trove of information that uncover the hidden secrets behind familiar and not-so-familiar city monuments.

Summer on the Lower East Side in 1937. Found on Ephemeral New York.

Summer on the Lower East Side in 1937. Found on Ephemeral New York.

Coming across the rare relic that you have been looking for is such a delight. We hope these online resources will assist you in finding exactly what you’re looking for! You might even come across an unexpected treasure. For example, when I was perusing Ephemeral New York, I came across an entry about a little girl’s diary from 1849. The diary was published in 1919 by Catherine Elizabeth Havens and entitled “Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York.” The book offers an inside peek into what life was like for a kid growing up in 19-century New York. Catherine, the young girl who authored the diary, goes into great detail about her surroundings, offering description of the rapidly changing city life. Ephemeral New York even provides a link to read the whole diary online! Check it out to learn more about pre-Civil War New York City.

An entry from Catherine's diary. Found on Ephemeral New York.

An entry from Catherine’s diary. Found on Ephemeral New York.

What are some of the historic photo resources that you use?

Categories: Art & Architecture, Blog, Lower East Side

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