The La Guardia and Wagner Archives at CUNY have a wonderful database of information about the city, especially during the 1930s and 1940s. If you haven't checked it out before, it's highly recommended.
They recently put some photos from their collection on Flickr, and they're fascinating. I was particularly interested in the NY Public House set, which includes images relating to the public housing projects constructed in NYC in the mid-20th century. Many of those projects displaced tenants from their homes, which the government considered sub-standard.
The archive includes a number of pre-development site photos, which are pretty interesting if you never saw the former buildings in person. There are also images of the new construction which provide a good counterpoint to the empty-lot photos and, I think, complicate our notions of what public housing and "slum clearance" projects meant to the city and to the people who lived here then.
Here are some of my favorites from the set:
Here's an arial shot showing the new Lillian Wald and Jacob Riis projects on the East River, along with Sty-Town to the north, from 1949:
Here's a woman in her tenement apartment building in Chelsea, summer 1941. This apartment looks so much like our restored Baldizzi apartment. We probably have the same model washtub (cheapest available):
Here's another tenement kitchen, this one on the Lower East Side, in 1945:
Here's a look at Orchard and Rivington in 1936. Thankfully this street was never razed:
But, these tenements on 4th and D were - they were on the site of the present-day Wald Houses:
These also met the wrecking ball (Baruch Houses, 1950):
Stores like this one, on the site of the future Lincoln Center, lost their spaces and the neighborhood clientele who shopped there:
On the other hand, couples like this one found promise in new, clean homes with modern technology, which were in short supply after the war. So much of the city's housing stock was old and deteriorating that new buildings were much appreciated (1947):
Housing projects like the Red Hook Houses also provided classrooms for immigrants to learn English, like this one below (1940):
Have a look through the La Guardia and Wagner Archives' Flickr set and let us know which photos strike you the most.
- posted by kate