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House History Research at The New York Public Library: DESIGN

A Brief Guide to Researching the History of Your NYC Home

DRAWINGS

One of the most comprehensive collections for New York City architectural drawings is the Manhattan Building Plan Collection at the Municipal Archives. The plans typically include drawings for buildings built between 1866-1970s, that were still standing from 1971 on. This collection is still being processed, but some digitized plans are available online. Contact the Municipal Archives for further advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above top, Plan for the 1st floor of 385 Avenue of the Americas, from 1948: as a liquor store, and as a projected diner (below), the Waverly Diner. (Manhattan Building Plan Collection, Courtesy the Municipal Archives).

 

Though NYPL does not have extensive collections of architectural drawings, it is possible that collections might include drawings and floor plans for a building. 

Try using keyword terms to find useful subject terms in NYPL Research Catalog to locate published materials that may include architectural drawings, blueprints, or floor plans. For instance

  • Apartment houses -- New York (State) -- New York
  • There may be a book or pamphlet on a building, architect or architectural firm. Try searching a building by its name or street address, or the name of the architect or owner under ‘Subject‘, ‘Author’ or ‘All Fields'.

Search in NYPL Archives using the name or address of a building, the architect, builder, or owner, for instance.

For example, 

NYPL Digital Collections includes

  • The World's loose leaf album of apartment houses (1910) Published in 1910, this is a reference guide for developers and the real estate industry to entice potential middle and upper class tenants to New York City’s "principle high class apartment houses." Each featured apartment building is briefly described, and illustrated with an exterior photograph and one or more floor plans. Includes index of renting agents.
  • Apartment houses of the metropolis (1908) Published in 1908 as a reference guide for developers and the real estate industry to entice potential middle and upper class tenants to New York City’s new and luxurious apartment houses. Each featured apartment building is briefly described, and illustrated with an exterior photograph and one or more floor plans.
  • Try also searching keywords, like floor plan, setting the date filter to include the years a drawing was made.

Some I-Cards include rough drawings of a residential building's floor plan.

Sanborn Fire Insurance maps sometimes give clues to a building's layout, but seldom for residential buildings.

ARCHITECTS AND BUILDERS

Again, librarians in the NYPL Art and Architecture Collection can advise you on researching architects. Some useful resources include:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left,  Obituary for architect David Jardine, who's firm D. & J. Jardine designed the building that became the Waverly Diner. New York Tribune, June 2, 1892, p.5 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)