The New York Public Library has Released a Maps by Decade Tool

The New York Public Library has been creating some amazing digital tools in the past couple of years. The library wants more of its collection to be available to anyone with a computer or hand-held device, so it’s been digitizing its old maps and photos and presenting them in ways that make it easy for people accustomed to Google Maps and Streetview. In fact, its eventual goal is to allow people to travel back in time as if Google Maps had existed since the 19th century.

Last month, the library unveiled a Maps By Decade tool that lets people place old maps over the current street grid, and search by decade and neighborhood. They had made similar tools available before but never with this kind of handy decade-by-decade design.

The Maps by Decade Tool may be found at: http://spacetime.nypl.org/maps-by-decade.

My thanks to newsletter reader Jim Henderson for telling me about this great resource.

10 Comments

Thanks as always for the great resource tips!
I have a mid-1850s address for a known Irish immigrant ancestor (arrived 1850), 134 Walker St., but that particular # does not appear on any of these maps or ones I had found previously. So still a bit of a mystery.

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It is in Manhattan in Chinatown. Just google “134 Walker Street, NY, NY” and you will see it. This whole area used to have a high Irish immigrant population at that time. As near as I can figure, it is just slightly north of Five Points.

This information is from “Forgotten New York” which is a fabulous site.
http://oldstreets.com/index.asp?letter=W
Walker Street. (curr.) This street at one time extended from just west of West Broadway to Division Street. Walker Street east of Centre Street became part of Canal Street in 1855. The angled south side of Beach Street just west of West Broadway was also originally part of Walker Street. See also Nicholas Street and Pump Street.

I don’t know which Roman Catholic church was already established in this area at that time. There is a nearby church, Church of the Most Precious Blood, but that was established much later.

You may want to contact the Archdiocese of New York and ask them.

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Thank you for your reply Mary Ann! I have Googled the address many times, and it’s always in the middle of the “V” shaped intersection. On the maps from the period in question (circa-1855), the street numbers jump from 125 to 222 as they cross Baxter St., and current Google Street View confirms this.

Spending more time with the NYPL maps in overlay mode, I just discovered the problem: The address is indeed in the middle of the intersection! At some point between 1852 when this map was done and 1860 when a photograph shows the “V” intersection, Canal St. pushed through that block and took the house and many others with it. Perhaps that event is what you describe above?

My ancestor and family appear in the 1855 NY census in the 14th ward (which matches this area), and he is listed in the directory in 1855-6 at the Walker St. address. So I think this is a mystery solved! Thanks again.

http://maps.nypl.org/warper/maps/7319#Preview_tab

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    Further research uncovered various newspaper and other references to the lengthening of Canal St. and widening of Walker in 1855, so this post of Dick’s and Mary Ann’s reply helped me pinpoint the exact location of my ancestor’s house. The family disappears from NYC records after that time (at least online ones) and reappears in Jersey City without the father in the 1860 census, so this info about the loss of the house might help explain the relocation, at least in part.

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Hi Mike, That whole area is still full of short blocks going in all sorts of odd directions and and sometimes meeting up with a couple of other blocks, and continuing on by taking off again in a different angle. Manhattan changed greatly from before the Civil War to after the Civil War. The City was trying to follow the planned grid structure, and it sounds as if lengthening Canal Street would have fit right in with that.
That area was jam-packed with people, always active, always noisy, and Jersey City was a doable commute across the river back to Manhattan.
Good luck in finding the burial site for the father.

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    Thanks Mary Ann, it seems the point of pushing Canal St. through and widening Walker was to create a continuous wide thoroughfare across the city, whereas before this work, Canal got blocked at Centre St. near Baxter, and Walker (later renamed Canal) at Division St. near East Broadway.

    From newspaper and book accounts it seems the work started on the east end of Walker by East Broadway in the spring/summer of 1855, and reached my ancestor’s home by that winter (1855/56). My ancestor appears on the 1855 census, taken on June 16.

    After this point I lose them until the family settles in JC by the 1860 census, without the immigrant husband/father. I don’t know when he died or where he is buried. I suspect the move to JC was not a commute but a relocation, as they stayed there from then on. My grandfather (born 1917) finally escaped JC in 1950, at least 90 years after his great-grandmother moved the family there.

    PS: I have one other immigrant Irish ancestor who lived in NYC in the 1860s (Michael Morris, wife Winifred Sweeney) but haven’t pinned them down to an address yet. Too many Morrises ;-). He too made it over to JC by 1870, from which time I know where they were.

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I’m looking for a Far Rockaway,Queens, address–“Fairview” Breezy Point . I have a photo of the house dated around 1905.In the 1900 Census David Carvalho & family are shown as residing at location 1409-163 off Sunset Ave but that road is not on the map although Breezy Point is. Any suggestions wecome!

Keith & Nancy (Carvalho) Atkinson

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Is there a way of finding out who or what was in the addresses at the time on the maps? My 3x gr grandfather lived in the 200 block of Bloome until 1847 and I think he was a carter. I wondered if there was a carter group near him on the 1850 map.

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    In my ancestor’s case, I had his name and address from the NYC directories. The 1855 census supported this location by listing him in the 14th ward (his directory address was on the south edge of that ward), but no addresses are on that census. So you will need a combination of sources to pin down who was at a given address.
    Historical property records may help, but I understand that’s an ugly, convoluted process you can’t do online and involves running all over NYC (I found a web page describing the process the other day; Google “new york city property records” or similar).

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    Thank you. Not going to NY. Just got back from a disappointing London trip trying to track down another brickwall.

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