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House History Research at The New York Public Library: HOME

A Guide For Researching the Histories of NYC Residential Buildings


159 Hicks Street, east side, between Clark Street and Love Lane. A view of the Stephen Brophy house. It was razed in 1890. 1888. Eugene L. Arnbruster Collection. This guide is intended to help researchers interested in researching buildings in New York City. It includes information about the uses and availability of property maps, censuses, city directories, land conveyances, photographs, newspapers, published local histories, ephemera, and other archival and published sources available at The New York Public Library, and elsewhere in the Five Boroughs.


This research guide is divided into sections that address common building research goals, including researching

  • Ownership: how to find identify the owners of a building.
  • Construction: when and by whom a building was commissioned to be built.
  • Design: identifying and researching the people that designed a building.
  • Residents: discovering who lived in a building.
  • Neighborhood history: what was the neighborhood like?

Preparation: before you start your research, you will need to find key data that will help you find the various records that describe the history of a building in NYC. For this you'll be looking at databases, maps, and photographs and other images.

This guide will include links to a selection of other building research guides and examples of building histories.

This guide is also intended as a supplement to the NYPL class Researching the History of Your New York City Home, available to view at The New York Public Library's Vimeo channel.

For information about the next live Researching the History of Your New York City Home, please consult Genealogy Essentials.


Reference Librarians

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Irma and Paul Milstein Division Reference Librarians
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First Floor, Room 121
New York, NY 10018

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