Ah, the “how New York used to be” conversation.
Whether you’ve lived here two years or twenty, there’s always that sentimental urge to talk about the good old days before your vegan-punk-rock diner turned into a TD Bank. But news flash: New York will always be in flux in some way.
To help put that into perspective is OldNYC, an addictive new digital project from the New York Public Library.
It’s basically a database of more than 35,000 vintage building photos that the NYPL has corresponded to an interactive map. You scroll around, find a street corner that’s special to you, click on the dot and see what it looked like in, say, 1928.
Some photos, unfortunately, are undated, but others are full of fascinating information, like this look at Union Square during the 1885 funeral procession for Ulysses S. Grant. And impressively, a single photographer, Percy Loomis Sperr, took the majority of the photographs. (Sperr obsessively documented the city from the late 1920s to the early 1940s.)
We can only hope that the NYPL will take this technology and continue to add historical photos throughout the 20th century. Because graffiti nostalgia is a terrible thing to waste.