457 12th Street
By now you all know that while I don’t entirely hate vinyl siding, I still love to dream about what’s underneath it. But you know what’s also fun? Looking the other way — at what some of my favorite restored houses looked like way back when. Back in, say, the 1980s. Bring on the vinyl!
Fortunately for me, the New York City Department of Records (aka Municipal Archives) has digitized the “tax photos” they took of every single building c. 1980 (they did this as well c. 1940). So for today’s post I’ve rounded up some of my favorite South Slope gingerbread houses — the ones I talk about a lot here! — and compared them back to what they looked like pre-restoration. All historic photos below are presented courtesy of the Municipal Archives.
Over the years, the beauty of Brooklyn’s wood-frame row houses has been masked under all sorts of siding. The average passer-by has no way of knowing that underneath the siding could lie the bones of something magical.
Fortunately for us, the NYC Department of Records (aka the Municipal Archives) possesses a fantastic collection of photos that allows us to peel back the siding for a peak at what lies beneath. One only needs to know the home’s block and lot number (which can be searched HERE) to view its “Tax Photo” for free on microfilm at the Municipal Archives, or to order a clean copy for around $35.00. Tax Photos were taken by the City in the years between 1939 and 1941 as a tool for appraising properties, and in that time they snapped a photo of every single building in all five boroughs of New York. Today the collection is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to restore their house or research the history of their neighborhood.