Showing posts with label Fox Street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fox Street. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2019

Looking for Teddy's Dairy in 1940

Click here to look for NYC building photos in the tax records
Wouldn't it be fun to go back in time and see what the residences and businesses of our ancestors looked like in, say, 1940? My ancestors on both sides were in New York City at the time, mainly in the Bronx, and I'm lucky that at least some photos are available in books (like Lloyd Ultan's The Beautiful Bronx, 1920-1950).

But not every building on every block is in those books. Even the New York Public Library's excellent digital photographic collection doesn't have every building on every street.

It turns out there is a super source of photographs of NYC buildings from 1940. It's free and it's online.

Photos in the NYC Municipal Archives

The NYC Municipal Archives holds these building photos, part of a database of 1940s tax records for all five boroughs. The photos were originally used to support property value assessments for every building in the city.

Now the digitized collection is a wonderful resource for genealogists whose ancestors lived in (or had a business in) New York City at that time. It's like Street View on Google Maps but set in the past of 1940, and only in black-and-white.

Searching For a Building Photo

The main portal to the photos allows visitors to choose a specific borough as the first step. At top, my choice of the Bronx. The next step is to browse or search for a building photo.

To search, you need the specific block and lot number of the property. That's not the same as the address. To find block and lot, click on the link on "NYCityMap" link and enter the street address and borough. Above is the result I got when I searched for 679 Fox Street, the Bronx address of the small grocery store called Teddy's Dairy, operated by Grandpa Teddy Schwartz and Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz in 1940.

Finding Teddy's Dairy

To see the actual photo, I plugged the block and lot number into the search box of the tax-photo page for the Bronx. Up came a black-and-white image of an apartment building with ground-floor retail space (see below). People are walking along, oblivious to the camera, and cars are parked along the curbs. It's an ordinary day in 1940.

Which storefront is Teddy's Dairy? The signs in the 1940 photo aren't crystal-clear. So I used Street View on Google Maps to confirm that the address is the corner store, with the entrance slightly up the street on the left. Today, that space is occupied by a food store, as it was in 1940, when my grandparents ran the corner store.

High-quality photos are for sale, but anyone can look at any building photo with a few clicks. More photographic time-travel is in my future as I click merrily through the Archives to see the buildings where these and other NYC ancestors lived and worked in 1940.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "At the Library."

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday's Faces from the Past: Kindergarten Twins, circa 1924

This school photo was taken more than 90 years ago, when the Schwartz twins (my mother Daisy and her sister Dorothy) were in kindergarten. Since the twins were born in 1919, I estimate the date of the photo to be 1924. Mom (1919-1981) and Auntie (1919-2001) would have been 97 years old this month.

Although I don't know which twin was which, it's easy to spot them sitting side by side in the center, with the Buster Brown hairdo so obviously popular at the time.

How did the photographer get these youngsters to sit still long enough to capture the image so clearly? Maybe that's why the kids aren't smiling!*


As the photo indicates, the twins went to school at P.S. 62 on Fox Street in the Bronx. This elementary school was across the street from the apartment building at 651 Fox Street where the family lived (and where the twins were born, at home).

I'm posting a fragment of the 1920 Census, showing the twins (age 0/12) and their older brother "Fredie" (age 7) with their parents, Theodore Schwartz and Hermina Farkas Schwartz, at that address.

With a magnifying glass and a little imagination, this Census confirmed what I already knew--that my Grandpa Teddy was born in Ungvar, Hungary and my Grandma Minnie was born in Bereg (now Berehovo), Hungary.

The Census-taker wrote the town names in parentheses under "place of birth" for all immigrants on that page...later the town names were crossed out but still visible.

By checking the original rather than relying on a transcription, I could see the birthplaces for myself. Faces and places from the past!

*Actually, the kids aren't smiling because the convention of smiling in a photographic portrait was only coming into favor around this time, as Time explains.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mom in the South Bronx on Friday the 13th

My cousin just sent me this photo of my mother and her twin sister, with their aunt Rose, who often babysat for them.

It was taken on Friday the 13th, in July of 1923. (I know because the date is written on the back.)

Grandpa Teddy Schwartz and his wife, Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz, ran a small dairy store in the neighborhood, so relatives like Rose helped look after the twins and their older brother during the long hours when the store was open.

Fox Street and the South Bronx in general at that time were usually safe, although my Grandpa's store did get robbed once, during the Depression, on Thursday, December 16, 1937. Here's the story as published in the New York Times:
Band Robs 3 Stores
Three Armed Men Get $300 in Series of Bronx Raids

Three armed men within an hour and a half held up three store-keepers in the Bronx last night and escaped with $300. About 9:30 o'clock they entered the grocery store of Theodore Schwartz at 679 Fox Street, hit him on the head with a pistol butt when he resisted and took $50. Half an hour later they went into the grocery store of Louis Lepperman at 422 Jackson Avenue and hit him with a pistol, but left quickly without taking anything when his wife screamed from a back room. In another half an hour, they forced Leonard Gaglio and his brother, Milton, liquor dealers at 1012 Morris Park Avenue, into a back room and took $250. 
Probably Grandpa Teddy's worst ordeal came when he had to come home and explain the loss of the hard-earned $50 to Grandma Minnie!