Best of the Web: New York City History
A selection of free resources pertaining to the history of New York City, including reference resources about the city, links to digital exhibitions and libraries, numerous websites, and information about the city and each of the five boroughs. This list will be updated from time time. If you have any suggestions for web sites that you think might be useful, please email the Milstein Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York City / Manhattan
14 to 42: New York City Signs
Survey of signs from 14th Street to 42nd Street with an emphasis on vintage signs. Documentation is supplied wherever available.
African Burial Ground in New York City
Website for the African Burial Ground National Historic Landmark located at the corners of Duane and Elk Streets in lower Manhattan.
A history of the Battery and Castle Clinton in lower Manhattan.
Forgotten New York
Unique site featuring the vestiges of the past found all over the city. Created and maintained by Kevin Walsh.
Gotham Center for New York History
Housed at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, this Website includes a resources directory, a calendar of events, online discussion groups, and information for educators.
Guide to Former Street Names in Manhattan
Contains more than 1,600 old names of streets and other urban features that are no longer on the map.
Historic Districts Council
The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York's designated historic districts and for neighborhoods that merit preservation.
Historic House Trust of New York City
The Historic House Trust of New York City, a not-for-profit organization, was created in 1989 to preserve and promote the 22 historic house museums located in New York City parks.
Landmarks Preservation Commission
The New York City agency that is responsible for identifying and designating the city's landmarks and the buildings in the city's historic districts. The Commission also regulates changes to designated buildings.
Diego Echeverria’s film skillfully represents the challenges residents of the Southside faced in the 1980s: poverty, drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single-parent homes, and inadequate local resources. The complex portrait also celebrates the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity, and their determination to overcome a desperate situation.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Between the years 1870 and 1915, 97 Orchard Street was home to over ten thousand people, mostly new immigrants. The site includes a virtual tour, a history of the building, and the history of tenement buildings and the immigrant experience.
Municipal Archives of the City of New York
Houses 150,000 cubic feet of historical government records, including manuscripts, official correspondence, vital records, ledgers, several thousand feet of moving images, over one million photographs, sound recordings, maps, and architectural plans.
Municipal Art Society
The Municipal Art Society of New York is a private, non-profit membership organization that aggressively champions excellence in urban design and planning and the preservation of the best of New York's past.
Museum of the City of New York
The Museum of the City of New York holds more than 1.5 million paintings, prints, photographs, costumes, toys, rare books, manuscripts, sculptures, decorative arts objects, and other artifacts that comprise a treasury of New York City history.
The New York History Blog
Historical news and views from the Empire State, the New York History Blog, founded in 2008 and updated several times per day, promotes the state’s history community including: new research and publications; newly available collections; public history advocacy and historic preservation efforts; exhibits and events; conferences and grants; and new stories from New York’s past.
Neighborhood Preservation Center
The Center’s mission is to facilitate and encourage citizen participation in the improvement and protection of New York City’s diverse neighborhoods. It is a place where the public is welcome to convene, strategize, and exchange information through its various services: public meeting rooms, temporary and virtual offices, and a resource referral service.
The New Littles: Explore The Data and Map
If Italians have left Little Italy, where are the new Littles? Little Poland? Little Korea? Andrew Beveridge of Social Explorer found the NYC census tracts populated by at least 20% of any ancestry or ethnicity.
New York Area Roads, Crossings and Exits
This site, developed and maintained by Steve Anderson, includes historic overviews, maps and photos of the highways, bridges and tunnels of the New York metropolitan area.
New York City History
A pathfinder produced by the staff of Columbia University Libraries, which provides links to many useful resources covering the history of New York City.
New York City Newspapers at the New York Public Library
An alphabetical list of New York City newspapers available in the Microforms Room (Room 100) of the Humanities & Social Sciences Library of the New York Public Library located at 5th Ave. and 42nd St.
New York City Subway Resources
Extensive information about New Yorks subway system including historical and contemporary maps and photos.
New York Historical Society, The
This organization is dedicated to the preservation of New York City's historical resources. The site contains a schedule of programs, images of artworks, and an archive of museum exhibitions. Of particular interest are the holdings of the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections. The collections document the social, political, economic and cultural history of New York City, its environs and the State of New York from the earliest times, and of the American experience from the early years of the nation to the present. Holdings may be searched online through: BobCat Online Catalog
New York Landmarks Conservancy
A nationally recognized organization, which helps owners of older buildings by providing grants, low-interest loans, hands-on consulting services, workshops, and publications.
New York Songlines
Virtual Walking Tours of Manhattan Streets
New York Transit Museum
This museum houses materials relating to the history of public transportation in the metropolitan region. The Website includes an overview of its programs, events, and collections.
New York: A Documentary Film Online
This web companion to the PBS documentary features an introduction to the making of this film; a 3-D virtual trip around NYC using QTVR panoramas; a multimedia quiz game; and an educational guide for students.
New York: The Center Of The World
The 8th episode of filmmaker Ric Burns' award-winning series New York: A Documentary Film examines the rise and fall of the World Trade Center—from its conception in the post-World War II economic boom, through its controversial construction in the 1960s and 1970s, to its tragic demise in the fall of 2001 and extraordinary response of the city in its aftermath.
NYPD History FAQs
Frequently asked questions about the history of the New York City Police Department.
Old York Library
The Old York Library contains a unique assemblage of books, maps, images (photos and postcards), newspapers, and memorabilia of New York City. The collection, founded in the 1960s by Seymour Durst, chronicles the history, geography, architecture, culture, politics and many other aspects of NYC.
A Guide to Former Street Names in Manhattan. Including also old roads, lanes, alleys, courts, terraces, parks, squares, wharves, piers, slips, markets and other named urban features that have been demapped, obliterated or renamed. Compiled and annotated by Gilbert Tauber, this resource will help you identify Manhattan locations mentioned in old books, articles and documents relating to New York City. It contains more than 1,600 old names of streets and other urban features that are no longer on the map.
Place Matters: NYC Encyclopedia of Places
A joint project of City Lore and the Municipal Art Society, advocating for places in New York City that preserve history and sustain culture. Maintains an interactive survey called the “Census of Places that Matter” where New Yorkers can nominate places of public significance.
Preserve & Protect, Inc.
Organization dedicated to preserving historic sites in New York City and throughout the country. Focuses on threatened sites, providing information on how to assist with their preservation. Offers a schedule of events—tours, exhibits, and society meetings—in the New York City area. Includes a directory of links to preservation resources throughout the U.S.
South Street Seaport Museum
New York-based museum dedicated to the preservation of the region’s marine heritage. Provides information on exhibitions, educational programs, related events, and fleet of ships.
The September 11 Digital Archive
This project's goals are to use electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath.
Times Square: Past, Present & Future
The official Times Square website which includes an online exhibition celebrating the centennial of Times Square and other links that explore the historic heritage and current highlights of Times Square.
Washington Heights & Inwood Online
This site hosts the historical writings of James Renner and other history pieces on Washington Heights and Inwood.
Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America: Photographs by Samuel Gottscho and William Schleisner, 1935–1955
Over 29,000 photographs primarily of architectural subjects, including interiors and exteriors of homes, stores, offices, factories, historic buildings, and other structures concentrated chiefly in the northeastern United States, especially the New York City area, and Florida.
Cartoonist Thomas Nast vs. Candidate Horace Greeley
In 1872, Thomas Nast, the premier cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly, waged a scorched-earth assault against the presidential campaign of Horace Greeley, the famous and influential founder and editor of the New York Tribune.
Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott, 1935–1938
343 black and white photographs by Berenice Abbott (1898–1991) from her Changing New York Works Progress Administration/ Federal Art Project documenting the city's rapidly changing environment.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
This site allows you to search and read newspaper pages from 1900–1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690–present. Includes New York City newspapers, The Sun and the Evening World.
Crime in New York 1850–1950
This collection offers access to primary materials documenting nearly a century of investigation, arrest, judgment and incarceration of many famous and unknown criminals in New York City. Materials have been gathered from the Lloyd Sealy Library's Special Collections at John Jay College and includes photographs and trial transcripts.
Detroit Publishing Company Photographs, 1880–1920
This collection of photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company Collection includes over 25,000 glass negatives and transparencies as well as about 300 color photolithograph prints, mostly of the eastern United States including New York City.
Digital Gallery (NYPL)
Digital Gallery provides access to over 337,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs,
Five Points Site
Archaeologists and historians rediscover a famous nineteenth-century New York neighborhood.
The "first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. The Journal was published weekly in New York City from 1827 to 1829. All 103 issues have been digitized and placed into Adobe Acrobat format."
This site presents a wealth of archival treasures and scholarship from Columbia University about the history of one of the world's most famous and influential neighborhoods.
An exhibition from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that includes a timeline, biographies, a section for teachers and other information about the African American community in Harlem.
LaGuardia and Wagner Archives
A repository for 20th century New York City political and social history covering the mayoralties of LaGuardia, Wagner, Beame, Koch, and more.
Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898–1906
This online collection contains 45 films of New York City dating from 1898 to 1906 from the holdings of the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting, & Recorded Sound Division. Provides streaming short films from the Edison Company and the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, including footage of Ellis Island, Central Park, skyscrapers, and subways.
An interactive recreation of P.T. Barnum's nineteenth century museum on Lower Broadway and the fire that consumed it. Includes essays and an archive.
MAAP: Mapping the African American Past
Web-based examination of New York City's African American history includes videos, audio, maps, images and teaching materials.
Maps of New Netherland, New Amsterdam, and New England
Based on an exhibition mounted by Fordham University.
Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection Online
A collection of 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines and newspapers as well as original photographs, prints and postcards, mostly created before 1923.
Moving Uptown: Nineteenth-century Views of Manhattan
Traces Manhattan's urban evolution as it has been recorded in 19th-century prints, drawn primarily from the Eno Collection of New York City Views and the I. N. Phelps Stokes Collection of American Historical Prints, both held at the New York Public Library.
Museum of the City Of New York's Collection Portal
This database consists of over 100,000 photographs of New York City from the Museum's collection.
New York City Digital Collection of Historical Books
A subset of the Making of America digital library (the University of Michigan site), this collection consists of over 400 volumes focusing on New York City. The “Refine this search” link at the top of the page allows you to search by keyword within this collection.
New York City Landmark Preservation Commission Designation Reports
The Neighborhood Preservation Center and New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission have joined together to provide free online access to Landmark designation reports. Designation reports explain the architectural, historical or cultural significance of an individual landmark or historic district.
New York City Views
Images of New York City from the NYPL Digital Gallery, a free resource of images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of the Library. This link goes directly to image collections of New York City from the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy.
New York State Historical Literature
The Cornell University Library New York State Historical Literature is a collection of 691 pamphlets and monographs with expired copyrights chosen from the Library's extensive collection of New York State Literature.
New York Underground (American Experience)
Web companion to an episode of the PBS television show the American Experience, looks at the construction and impact of New York City's subway system.
New York's State and National Registers of Historic Places Document Imaging Project
Include more than 4000 State and National Register of Historic Places nomination forms and their associated photographs.
NewYorkHeritage.org is a portal to hundreds of free digital collections about New York State's people, places, and institutions contributed by libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions.
Notable New Yorkers
Offers audio recordings and transcripts of interviews with ten influential New Yorkers, drawn from the collections of the Oral History Research Office of the Columbia University Libraries.
NYU and the Village: An Urban University in Bohemia
A virtual tour of New York University and Greenwich Village history including a walking tour, biographical sketches and quotes.
Picture Collection Online (NYPL)
The online counterpart to the illustrious Mid-Manhattan Library’s Picture Collection, this resource is a collection of 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines and newspapers as well as original photographs, prints and postcards, mostly created before 1923. Browse under the subject “New York City”
Seneca Village: A History
Seneca Village was Manhattan's first significant community of African American property owners. It existed from 1825 through 1857 and was located between 82nd & 89th Streets and 7th & 8th Avenues. Today, this area is part of Central Park.
Stonewall and Beyond: Lesbian and Gay Culture
The online edition of the Columbia University Libraries exhibition on gay and lesbian history and culture, held in 1994 in conjunction with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the "Stonewall Riots" in New York City.
Triangle Factory Fire
This web exhibit presents original documents and secondary sources on the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire (1911) held by the Cornell University Library. You will find original documents, oral histories, and photographs.
Bronx African American History Project
Dedicated to uncovering the cultural, political, economic, and religious histories of the more than 500,000 people of African descent in the Bronx.
Bronx County Historical Society
The Bronx County Historical Society was founded in 1955 to preserve the heritage of this thriving community. The Society administers the colonial era Valentine-Varian House, which serves as the Museum of Bronx History; The Bronx County Archives; an extensive Research Library; and Poe Cottage, the final home of America's great 19th century poet and author, Edgar Allan Poe.
Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library
A special collection on the history of Brooklyn from earliest times to the present including books, photographs, postcards, newspapers, clippings, atlases, maps, manuscripts, and memorabilia.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This database, produced by the Brooklyn Public Library, provides access to the full-page image with searchable text of the Eagle from 1841–1902.
Brooklyn during the Civil War
This Web site explores Brooklyn during the Civil War by presenting primary source documents — photographs, letters, newspaper articles, illustrations, and more — that show what life was like during this period.
Brooklyn Historical Society
Founded in 1863, the Brooklyn Historical Society, is a nationally renowned urban history center dedicated to the exploration and preservation of documents, artwork and artifacts representative of Brooklyn's diverse cultures past and present. Website includes an interactive timeline
Coney Island: The Ups and Downs of America's First Amusement Park
This web companion to the PBS documentary features a timeline, photos and history.
Green-Wood Cemetery is one of the world’s great cemeteries. Founded in 1838 as the third rural cemetery in America, it is the final resting place of nearly 600,000 persons, including some of history's most memorable figures.
Historic Brooklyn Photographs
Brooklyn Public Library's catalog of several thousand historic photographs from the Brooklyn Collection.
Archives @ Queens Public Library
The Archives has one of the largest collections of primary and secondary resources documenting Long Island history. It collects, preserves, and makes available resources that document the social, economic, and political history of the four counties on Long Island: Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk.
Bayside Historical Society
The Society's objectives are to identify, collect, preserve, and maintain materials that document the history of Bayside and Northeast Queens.
Greater Astoria Historical Society
The Greater Astoria Historical Society, chartered in 1985, is a non-profit cultural and community oriented organization dedicated to preserving the past and promoting Long Island City's future.
Greater Ridgewood Historical Society
The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society was established in 1975, by a groups of local residents to preserve the Onderdonk House. The Society maintains a history and genealogical research library.
History of Queens
A brief history of Queens from the Office of the Queens Borough President.
Archives @ Queens Public Library
The Archives of the Queens Borough Public Library collects, preserves, and makes available resources that document the social, economic, and political history of the four counties on Long Island - Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk.
Queens Historical Society
The Queens Historical Society produces a regular series of history related exhibitions and lecture series. It also serves as a local history research center, which provides access to a library of maps, atlases, manuscripts, photographs, documents, family papers and ephemera covering over 300 years history of Queens.
Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, Staten Island
The museum is a national landmark that collects, preserves and exhibits historical objects relating to the lives of General Giuseppe Garibaldi and Antonio Meucci.
Historic Richmond Town
Richmond Town is a historic village and museum complex devoted to early life on Staten Island. Home of the Staten Island Historical Society.
Preservation League of Staten Island
Since its organization in 1977, the Preservation League of Staten Island has supported the preservation of Staten Island's historic built environment through a variety of activities.
Sandy Ground Historical Society
Founded in the early 19th century by freed black men from New York, Sandy Ground is the oldest community established by free slaves in North America. The Society maintains the largest documentary collection of African-American culture and history on Staten Island and the museum also serves as an educational research facility chartered by the state Department of Education.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center
Snug Harbor is a cultural center set within an 83-acre National Historic Landmark district containing the finest collection of Greek Revival buildings in the United States, plus Beaux Arts, Italianate and Victorian style architecture.
Staten Island Museum
New York City's only general interest museum, explores the arts, natural science, and local history through permanent and changing exhibitions. Also known as the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences (SIIAS).