Architectural Nostalgia

by Don Friedman on September 22, 2017


Michael alerted me to the existence of 80s.NYC, a website that gives street views of buildings as photographed by the city government some 35 years ago. It’s fantastic if you want a sense of what the city was like then and how different it is from today. I am a bit disappointed that the apartment house I grew up in did not make the cut. There are a number of photos of buildings on our old block; the building across the street (second photo at the top, labelled “boro 4 block 5186 lot 29) is very similar to ours, except ours is seven stories tall.

I’m sure there are similar apartment houses elsewhere, but there’s a certain look to a 1960s outer-borough building that is, for some of us, the feeling of childhood home. The exterior facades are one notch above a cell block, and are supposedly softened by the little strip of lawn out front. The interior of the apartments is nicer, if a bit plain. People elsewhere have mental  images of New York that pretty much always start with skyscrapers and maybe extend to brownstones. Most people in the city live in low- and mid-rise apartments, including old tenements that have been upgraded with better plumbing, 1910-1930 elevator apartments, and post-war buildings like our old one, pictured above. It’s all city living, just less fancy than the Hollywood stereotype.

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