Just came across this resource from the NYS Archives:



Here are some libguides from around the country with info about researching a building:

Western New York -

Country library in North Carolina -

Indiana -

Minneapolis -

Wyoming -



This is cribbed from, which is very NYC-centric. I think the info below might be more helpful generally. 

Blueprints, Plans and Maps

In obtaining a floor plan for a building can be a bit of a struggle, but here are some of the best places to go about locating a plan:

Department of Buildings
Maintain files containing construction applications, building permits, architectural drawings, blue prints and plans. Their Building Information System (BIS) provides a property overview, as well as violation and complaint information, actions and inspections. They began keeping records from 1865 onward and the boroughs began in 1898

Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals
An index to architectural periodicals, which includes archaeology, decorative arts, interior design, furniture, landscape architecture and city planning, as well as architects’ obituaries. The best resource to obtain information, drawings, plans and photographs on a building

Municipal Archives
Microfilm collections of the Department of Buildings docket books, landbooks, and records for new building and alteration applications for Manhattan from 1866 to 1959. Also the Assessed Valuation of Real Estate 1789-1979 collection that contains the name of the owner (or occupant) with a description of the property and its assessed valuation, which is useful for structures built prior to the Department of Buildings in 1866

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division(Room 117)
Bromley and Sanborn Maps, Fire Insurance Maps, Block and Lot Maps, and Property Atlases, which will provide information on a building from the dimensions, buildings footprint and materials used in construction

Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970
Provides online maps for towns and cities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. An online database available onsite in the HSSL Library

Books on Architectural Firm or Building
There may be a book or pamphlet on the building, architect or architectural firm. Search the Libraries online catalog, CATNYPby the name of the building (unless known by address) or the name of architect under ‘Subject‘, ‘Author’ or ‘Keyword’

Artist Files
A clippings file of ephemera on microfiche, located in the Art & Architecture Division, Room 300. It provides entries for architects, as well as architectural firms

Art Index Retrospective
Index to articles in major art and architecture periodicals and bulletins from 1929-1984. It is preceded by Art Full Text for 1984 to the present

Ownership: mortgages and deeds

If all places fail in locating information on a building, then perhaps the following resources may be able to shed some light on your address:

Office of the City Register
Access to Conveyance Records (deeds and mortgages), which may include information about: when the building was built, parties to the sale, buildings on the site, material used for construction and the name of the architect

Search property records and view the documents online for Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn from 1966 to the present

Property Shark
A property and real estate website that is searchable by address, borough and block level. Registration is required and a subscription needed for more than four searches per day

Mighty Maps
Online database that is searchable by address, intersection, block and lot, borough or map. Reports on NYC buildings and property including owners, tax liens, auctions, foreclosure sales, zoning, land use, lis pendens, building permits, tax values and comparables. Includes data on building residents and businesses. Professional edition is accessible onsite at SIBL through subscription.

Municipal Archives
Access to the microfilm collection of the Assessed Valuation of Real Estate 1789-1979 which contains the name of the owner (or occupant) with a description of the property and its assessed valuation. Especially useful for structures built prior to the Department of Buildings in 1866



On May 20 at 6 PM via Zoom (details below), the Yonkers Public Library is hosting:

Exploring 18th Century Westchester Through Inventories 

presented by Saratoga Spring native, Field Horne

Horne, a former Research Assistant with Sleepy Hollow Restorations (now Historic Hudson Valley) and author of the 2018 book,Westchester County: A History will speak about insights into the houses, farms, and everyday lives of Westchesterites between 1664 and 1790. Based on an unpublished study conducted in 1977, his talk will introduce such puzzles as “draw locks and scutchings,” the ever-popular “trumpery,” and how to properly count chickens and hogs.

The presentation will be given through Zoom. To join, click on this click.

To join by phone, dial +1 929 205 6099.

The meeting ID is 958 0644 5447.

For any questions about the program, contact Michael Walsh at

Keene Valley Library's Teacher’s Guide to the Adirondack Community: Capturing, Retaining, and Communicating the Stories of Who We Are

By Jery Y. Huntley, MLS, March 19, 2021

On February 8, 2021 the Keene Valley Library added the Teacher’s Guide to the Adirondack Community: Capturing, Retaining, and Communicating the Stories of Who We Are ( and OurStoryBridge: Connecting the Past and the Present ( websites. This guide is designed for teachers in the Adirondacks, New York state and across the country. Librarians are requested to share this resource with teachers, other librarians, and their patrons.

Take a look! The Teacher’s Guide consists of the How To document outlining how to use the stories for lessons in any school in any community; the Story Selection Chart, a tool to match stories with specific high school courses; the Story Summaries, brief synopses of the 180 stories currently available; and the Sample School Assignment. Included are stories of catastrophes and community reactions; world, American and local history; family legacies; the grandeur of our environment; social justice and societal change; school impact and experiences; and most recently, life during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement.

Teachers are encouraged to use the Teacher’s Guide to relate to students in the media that compels them by using these continually updated stories and podcasts, assigning stories relevant to a lesson as homework, playing them in the classroom, or suggesting them for activities or projects. They can be used to introduce a topic, make a concept memorable, or stimulate discussion, making classes appealing and memorable. As primary sources with audio and visual content, lessons can come alive. Students connect what they are learning in the classroom to the real world, past, and present.

Questions or comments to

Additional posts cover Adirondack Community at

OurStoryBridge at For additional information follow the Adirondack Community Story Project and OurStoryBridge Facebook pages and subscribe to the OurStoryBridge e-newsletter.

Yonkers Public Library African American Oral History Project

By Mike Walsh, March 12, 2021

The Yonkers Public Library African American Oral History project has been running since February 1. The participants have generously shared their stories and advice. Though some interviewees have faced adversity, listener’s can hear how they overcame challenges and reached success.

These interviews can be watched on the Yonkers Public Library YouTube Channel or listened to on the Yonkers Public Library Digital Archive. Photographs of participants and their family can be accessed on the digital archive. Below is a brief synopsis of the interviews conducted so far. We encourage you to listen! Listed below are some of our interviewees that have shared their stories:

Theresa Murphy shared stories about her experience growing up in the Bronx and talked about New York in the 1950s and 1960s. She described her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. She described sexism that she and other women experienced in the workplace. Theresa had to work hard to overcome these challenges.

Dennis Richmond Jr. spoke about his experience researching his family’s genealogy, tracing his roots back to the 1770’s. He talked about his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement and founding of the New York-New Jersey HBCU Initative.

Vinnie Bagwell is the artist behind the bronze Ella Fitzgerald statue titled “The First Lady of Jazz” in Yonkers and the Victory Behind Sims sculpture she crafted to replace the J. Marion Sims statue on Fifth Avenue in New York City. In her interview she discusses these projects and others by African-American women.

Thelma Jenkins and grand-daughter Katori Walker were interviewed together. Thelma recalls stories from her youth and experiences with racism here in Yonkers and the United States. Katori described her artwork and her involvement with different art organizations in Yonkers

Dale Rascoe described growing up in Ossining and the racism she faced in school. After learning about the Black Panthers, she moved to California to join them. Rascoe speaks about her experiences with the Black Panthers and her work in the Black Power movement.

Adirondack Community: Capturing, Retaining, and Communicating the Stories of Who We Are 

by Jery Y. Huntley, MLS, February 9, 2021

In June 2019, the Keene Valley Library released Adirondack Community at Adirondack Community is a multi-year local history project that collects and organizes audio stories and related photographs from Town of Keene community members through an online platform to share the rich social and cultural history of this community located in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains.

A “story” is a first-person three- to five-minute unedited account by a “storyteller” in their own voice about their own experience and and/or those that came before them, accompanied by up to five photos from the library’s archives and community members and posted on in one - three of the eight categories selected by the community.  As of today, 180 stories have been posted from over 110 storytellers, along with nine downloadable podcasts. Over 3,000 unique visitors have listened to our stories, coming from a town of about 1,100 residents. We have found special value in this kind of online story project in times of crisis, like COVID-19, as residents listen to stories of previous disasters and gain comfort in hearing about long-term community strength.

Our goals include 1) capturing the rich cultural history of our unique community, with a focus on recording older generations before their histories are lost, and 2) building civic pride and engagement among students to encourage their growth as involved community members. Our partnership with Keene Central School helps us achieve the latter goal. These stories have appeal beyond our Adirondack community, with themes like social justice and social change, the community working together in crisis, aging, the legacies that have been left, and the uniqueness of the area; recent COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter stories have been especially popular.

Additional posts will cover OurStoryBridge: Connecting the Past and the Present at, a website with free tools for communities to create their own story projects on the Adirondack Community model and the Teacher’s Guide, available on both websites, with resources to use these stories in any classroom, anywhere. For additional information follow the Adirondack Community Story Project and OurStoryBridge Facebook pages and subscribe to the OurStoryBridge e-newsletter.

Please send questions and comments to


Ocean Beach Historical Society: A Work in Progress

by Rudie E. Hurwitz, 1 February 2021

I began working with the Ocean Beach Historical Society in August 2018. I met with Linna Salamone, the curator, and proposed an architectural history show for the following summer season. Ocean Beach is located on Fire Island, a barrier island south of Long Island, accessible by ferry, and really only fully operational between Memorial and Labor Day. Ocean Beach was incorporated in 1921, so there is a over a century of established history and plenty of documentation of this resort town so close to New York City. Unlike the glamorous Pines, a few towns over, Ocean Beach is not known for its architecture, though it is filled with excellent examples of a hyper-local vernacular style, and the evolution, over the 20th century, thereof.

The OBHS collection is made up entirely of materials donated by residents of Ocean Beach. Much of the home-owning population of Ocean Beach inherited houses from previous generations. Tradition and culture, coupled with a sense of ownership, permeate the community, even with the enormous influx of summer renters and daytrippers. The collection includes hundreds of orignial photographs, including images of Marilyn Monroe's stay, as well as the many celebrities who called OB their summer homes, including General Marshall, who summered there throughout the 1930s. There are original deeds from the 1910s and 20s, pamphlets from the early 1900s spouting the virtues of the healthy Fire Island lifestyle, and objects like a woolen bathing suit from the early 20th century. There are records of Ocean Beach throughout both wars and the depression, family photo albums from the 1970s,slides, negatives, film and video, 60 years of local newspapers, posters of every event, as well as scores of files of clippings. It is a rich and robust collection documentating the development of this northeastern resort community traditionally serving a middle or working class population.

Linna, as it happened, had been thinking of doing an architecture show when an architectural historian (me), fell into her lap. So the timing was serendipitious. But it was August and the Historical Society, like much else on the island, shuts down after Labor Day. Linna has access, of course, but it is difficult to get to the island once it gets cold. There is only one ferry a day and most structures are not insulated. So if you miss that boat back to the mainland, it can get awfully uncomfortable.

The OBHS collection is housed in the Community Building in the center of town, a small playground away from the Great South Bay. The OBHS public space, where the exhibitions and events take place, is at the east side of the building, while the closet where the archives are housed, is on the west side, in a space that also serves as a backstage area for theater productions put on by the local day camp. Traditionally, the town floods when it rains. When there is a hurricane or nor'easter, Ocean Beach can get several feet of water in the commercial area, where the Community House is located. Many of the buildings are raised a few feet off the ground, and the Community House falls into that category. Nevertheless, a big storm will take out the entire collection as will a fire. Without a catastrophe, there is still opportunity for signifcant damage to the materials. The storage area is neither insulated nor air-conditioned, resulting in massive fluctuations in temperature throughout the year.

Linna and previous curators have seen to it that many materials are in mylar sleeves, though many are also in page protectors. Materials are stored in acid-free boxes and usually acid-free folders. There are acid-free tissues protecting some materials. There is no finding aid, aside from Linna, and there are multiple cataloguing systems that have been used for the past 30 years. Because of this, it is impossible to know what is in the collection.

My goals include sorting, indentifying, re-housing, and colocating both the collection and the archive, using a standardized metadata system so each item has a number and they all relate to one another, a single online database ideally with images (digitally preserved), a website, a logo. I have not been able to apply for a grant because the org does not have a budget exactly and is under an umbrella 501c-3, from which I cannot get documents and even if I could, because there's no budget for the OBHS, it would be a hard sell. Hopefully I will be able to share and post updates!

Interested in joining LHRT?

Now you can! Click here to find out how to join online. Please direct any questions about LHRT to Michael Walsh,