☝️Just some of the amazing photos we received. 😍

My Archive Is Live on the Urban Archive App!

Last fall, Urban Archive received an email from a woman named Jill:

“Could you could help me identify a building/neighborhood that I have been dying to have identified. The photo is of my mother, her siblings, and her mother, and was taken in about 1942 near what seems to be a government building — perhaps a post office.”

This is the photo she included:

With our knowledge of Manhattan streetscapes and the help of a secret weapon (a lifelong New Yorker who works as a newspaper and transit photographer, thanks Marc!), we were able to locate the building as 242 West 31st Street. As it turns out, it is the last remaining structure from the original Penn Station!

This conversation with Jill struck a chord with us. While Urban Archive’s collection of images is rich with architectural photograph, Jill reminded us of the personal connection that people have to the city.

Just for fun here are a few other stories people shared with us about their NYC connections:

Left: “Wheeler Williams (the sculpture of this piece) was the lover of my grandmother Katherine Hawley, an Isadora Duncan and Ruth Saint Denis dancer. She is the female figure and Wheeler is the male.” Right: “I used to buy nickel bags of weed there in the early 1980s!”

Urban Archive has located tens of thousands of buildings across NYC but a city is not just the built environment, it is the people who live there and visit. We wanted to honor these unique human interactions with the city with an initiative that complemented the mission of Urban Archive.

Urban Archive is a technology nonprofit that creates new connections between people, places, and historical institutions. Our mission is to inspire learning that’s rooted in what’s local — the architecture, culture, and unique stories of New York City.

With this in mind, My Archive was born; a quirky marriage of historical archives, storytelling, and your friend’s 1970s Afro. Throughout the month of February we invited our fellow New Yorkers to join us in telling the story of our city by sending us their personal photographs and stories.

We were not surprised at all that the response was fantastic! We had over 150 submissions. Our initial plan was to only map the best 20 photos but we soon realized that it was going to be impossible to choose only 20. Instead, we decided to add every photograph that could be mapped to our platform. We also selected 25 photos and stories to highlight felt reflect the diverse experiences of the city. You can see the full selection roundup here.

Our team is endlessly inspired by your stories of the people and places that make up our city. Your photos (whether of a grand Beaux Arts library or your parents’ wedding day) capture a moment in time, but they are connected to any number of other moments and places. We loved discovering these connections. (Historical research is really just an endless spiral of information and discovery, you know!?) As we explored each of your submissions, we delighted in finding additional images, ephemera, and cultural artifacts related to your stories. Here are some of our favorite findings:

33 Park Row — Lower Manhattan

Photo via the Hirsch family
“This is my great-great-great grandfather’s hat shop. His name was John Henry Day. He was born in New York in 1832 and died in 1909.”
— Todd Hirsch

Sometimes, we see substantial changes to a specific building over time!

Left: 33 Park Row circa 1870 via NYPL, Right: 33 Park Row (a new building) circa 1915 via MCNY

Flushing Meadow- Corona Park- 1964 World’s Fair

Photo via Lisa Malaspina Archive
“This photo was taken on a class trip to the 1964 Worlds Fair, Flushing Queens. I am sitting with my fourth grade teacher Sister Josefa and classmate Brian.”
- Lisa Malaspina

Sometimes, photos capture a significant cultural event — like this one! EVERYONE visited the World’s Fair in 1964 and it was particularly exciting for New York Catholics.

Left: The Fair was the first time the Michelangelo’s stone masterpiece had left its home at St. Peter’s since 1499! via NY Times Right: The Vatican Pavilion was the second most popular site at the 1964–1965 World’s Fair via the Old York Collection

203 Dyckman Street

“On July 4, 1948, my parents ventured down from upstate to visit my mom’s father in NYC. They are posing in front of a Chinese-American restaurant located in the Inwood section of Manhattan. My mom’s second cousin Jimmy & his two brothers (Jack and George), my grandfather and another relative, Cheung Lum, owned and operated this restaurant that opened in 1946. In 1951, they opened a second one in the Bronx. They finally decided in 1952 to close the two restaurants and opened up a new one in Flushing called Lum’s Chinese-American Restaurant. The restaurant became the premiere Chinese-American restaurant in Flushing for many decades before closing in the 1980s. It is interesting to note that How Lum is the great-grandfather of musical theater performer Adrianne Chu and Jimmy Lum is the great-grandfather of rapper/actress Nora Lum…better known as Awkwafina.” — Henry Chu

Sometimes, the family stories and businesses span decades and boroughs (and have contemporary celebrity connections)!

Before we close this round, a big final thank you to everyone who participated and our partners who helped us get My Archive off the ground:

You all rock!

We already can’t wait for the next round — My Archive 2.0 — set for this June. So start digging into those albums and dusty old boxes for your NYC photo gems. 🕵🏽‍♂

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