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Old 05-15-2003, 03:32 PM
nycdi nycdi is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 3
East Harlem

Hi Sue,
My g-g-grandparents and related families also lived at several addresses in East Harlem in the late 1800s. I have seen the area referred to as "White Harlem" - I guess to delineate it from predominantly black West Harlem - but I'm not sure in what time frame that was. My family was mixed-race from the Caribbean but referred to themselves as "white" and were there mostly from about 1890 on. After about 1925, they moved to the Bronx. I believe the demographics had changed a great deal during the years they were in East Harlem. It is a bit frustrating to try researching the area on the internet, if you are not looking for Hispanic resources, because I've found that most websites focus on the more current Hispanic population - or sometimes you'll see references to the Italians. My family lived at various addresses very close to yours. Unfortunately, I believe that the low-income housing projects along First Avenue replaced the apartment buildings my ancestors lived in, so I cannot just go and take a picture of their old buildings (I live in Manhattan but hardly ever get up to the East Harlem area). I've also searched the Library of Congress online archives, but have found mostly West Harlem. What they have on East Harlem is much later than the period you and I are researching. I have a copy of an out-of-print book called New York Photographs, 1850-1950 by Benjamin Blom, which contains (not a lot, but) some great old photos of the East Harlem neighborhood when it looked quite rural. Big old sycamores on the sidewalk, people riding those old-fashioned bicycles with huge wheels, clapboard houses, and folks dressed in their Sunday best. But that was closer to 5th Avenue and I suspect it was quite different along the East River. There are some good old maps of upper Manhattan and East Harlem on the internet of you do a Google search - I can't recall the site but there is one with a 1903 map. You can still get hold of that Benjamin Blom book I mentioned on eBay or other online used book sellers (it's a wonderful big book of photos). Another resource is the "Tax Photos" available at the Municipal Archives. The city took pictures of every building in 1930-31. Many of these were of buildings built many years earlier, so it is not impossible to see if there is an image in their files that will help you with your 1880s research. The website for the Municipal Archives is http://www.nyc.gov/html/doris/home.html
One way you can get an idea of what the neighborhood was like is to search through the old census reports. I really don't think the area was known for having much Irish, but I could be very wrong.

Good Luck!
Diane
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