Curious about what the building his great-great-grandfather lived in was like, ex-Brooklynite Zach van Schouwen was soon researching the history of his entire street. The result is “The Block,” a series pen-and-ink drawings of how the stretch of Eldridge Street, between Stanton and Rivington on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, looked in every year since 1795.
Eldridge turns out to be fairly typical of the neighborhood, which evolved from “Delancey’s Farm” to a series of tall, narrow tenements that start replacing the street’s small rowhouses in the 1850s. Fire escapes begin to appear, in accordance with law, in the 1920s and 30s. The block takes a downward turn just after World War II, when a number of tenements are gradually boarded up, torn down, and replaced with garages and storage facilities. In 1985, the entire block becomes occupied by a single housing project.
Van Schouwen turned the drawings into a time lapse video, above, but the website version allows the viewer not only to linger, but click on each individual building to discover its history. Though he now lives in Seattle, Van Schouwen’s interest in New York history runs deep. Before creating “The Block,” he ran a blog, Re-Brooklyn, featuring then-and-now shots of the borough.
Tags: Housing, Manhattan, New York, Projects, Then and Now