Department of Records

Featured Story

Book Reviews, Features, History, Landscape Architecture

All of the images in this post are included in “The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure,” and are courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives.

There are few things as beautiful as a sunset in Central Park, standing beside the reservoir at 90th Street, looking west, and watching the sun sink behind the San Remo then glitter through the trees on the park’s horizon, and finally melt into the water, its colors unspooling there like ink. That view, one of so many available in the park, can be credited to the meticulous planning by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, whose extraordinary vision made Central Park one of the finest urban oases on earth.

The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure,” a new book by Cynthia S. Brenwall, out now from the NYC Department of Records, offers a closer look at that lanning process than ever before. Using more than 250 color photos, maps, plans, elevations, and designs — many published here for the very first time — the book chronicles the park’s creation, from conception to completion, and reveals the striking “completeness” of Olmsted and Vaux’s vision. “There was literally no detail too small to be considered,” Brenwall says. You’ll see the earliest sketches of familiar structures, and check out plans for unbuilt amenities (including a Paleozoic Museum!) 6sqft caught up with Brenwall to find out how the book came together, hear what it was like to cull through those incredible documents and snag a few secrets of Central Park.

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Featured Story

Architecture, Features, History, immigration, Lower East Side

“A Group of ‘Lung Block’ Children,” from Ernest Poole, The Plague in Its Stronghold, Tuberculosis in the New York Tenement, 1903. Courtesy of the Department of Records

In 1933, a new development rose on the Lower East Side. It was Knickerbocker Village, the first federally-funded apartment complex in the United States, and one of the first developments that would later fall under the umbrella of the city’s “Slum Clearance” program. The “slum” that Knickerbocker Village replaced wasn’t just any rundown collection of buildings – it was the notorious “Lung Block” between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, bounded by Cherry, Monroe, Market and Catherine Streets, which in 1903, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernest Poole named the most congested and disease-ridden place in the city, or, perhaps, the world. But was it?

The Lung Block: A New York City Slum and its forgotten Italian Immigrant Community,” a new exhibit opening April 25th at the NYC Department of Records curated by researchers Stefano Morello and Kerri Culhane, will revisit the neighborhood and the immigrant community that called it home. With maps, journals, photos and other artifacts, the exhibit will consider the connections between health and housing, affordability and gentrification, public health and progressive reform, and architecture and the immigrant experience.

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History

While paper might be becoming a thing of the past, it’s often the one thing that remains of our recorded history. And while it was often our sole means of recording that history, paper is among the most difficult media to preserve. To that end, New York City’s painstakingly stacked, filed and boxed New York Supreme Court records, part of an immense collection of official documents dating back as far as 1674, are being moved from the archival homes they’ve occupied for, in some cases, centuries. The New York Times reports on a heroic effort by dedicated archivists to round up the these city records in order to preserve them for posterity and make them more accessible to researchers.

From early immigration papers to Aaron Burr’s divorce

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