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Find out what your NYC building looked like in the 1940s

Take a fascinating trip back in time.

By
Shaye Weaver
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See what your building looked like way before you were even born.

The New York City Department of Taxation took photos of every house and shop across the five boroughs between 1939 and 1941, before the U.S. entered WWII, (as well as during the 1980s) and they're available online for anyone to look at, Roaming Views first reported.

Before, you needed to put in the block and lot number, which you could find on New York City's GIS map, on the Department of Records & Information Services website and search on the left for "DOF 1940s tax photos" and the borough you're searching for.

But now, you don't have to do that—all you need is an address.

Full stack software engineer and NYC resident Julien Boilen created an interactive map at 1940s.nyc that puts all this information in one place. You can scroll across the map and select properties easily.

1940s tax map
Photograph: Courtesy 1940s.nyc

We looked up the Flatiron Building, which is located at 175 5th Avenue:

NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery

We also looked up the Trader Joe's building in Downtown Brooklyn on Court St:

NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery

It's a really easy way to look up how your part of the neighborhood looked back then, from the stores that surrounded your home to even the small details like what the street signs were or what people were wearing on your block.

Boilen also included "outtakes" of photos on the website, so you can see what is essentially a blooper reel from the 1940s tax photographers.

1940s tax photos
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives

Thanks to these records we can have a small glimpse into the New York City that preceded us.

If you are curious about other buildings, you can browse through the collection, which contains more than 1.6 million items including photos, maps, blueprints, videos and audio recordings.

If you can't find your tax photo and your building was definitely around then, you can email photounit@records.nyc.gov for help. 

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