If you are researching the ownership chain of your New York City home, or looking for the builder or architect, chances are you will spend many hours browsing the Real Estate Record & Builder’s Guide. A weekly publication listing all the real estate transaction in the city from 1868 to 1922, the guide lists buyer, seller, amount paid and, if you’re lucky, an actual address, not just the distance from the nearest intersection. The search engine is clunky and it requires a lot of patience.
A bonus of spending so much time poking around is that you get to see some of the building trade ads of the time. For instance:
Fred Brandt, maker of roofing, cornices, skylights and inventor of the stationary zinc wash tub. How ’bout that?
Pretty much every brownstone has one of these under the stoop. They have been securing our homes from “burglars and sneak thieves” for at least 120 years. Wonder if Jacob made ours.
N.Y. Metal Ceiling Co. advertises its product as suitable for residences, offices, stores, schools, hospitals and churches. Selling point? “Can be applied over old plaster.” Cracking plaster is not a modern problem…
Here I was, thinking that 19th century sidewalks were always made of blue stone, granite or wood blocks.* I guess in 1895, there were already 4.5 million square feet of concrete sidewalks in the city.
And what is in no way a precursor to Page Six, nearly a whole page dedicated to “Gossip of the Week – South of 5oth Street.” Here is a sample from March 9, 1895:
* if you happen to find yourself in Greenpoint, go to West Street (near Oak Street), where you will find the last remaining wood block sidewalk in the city. There isn’t much left, maybe the span of a building or two.