Office for Metropolitan History
Specialists in the Architectural History of New York City
With gratitude to and respect for all those who are interested in the history of New York City, we have digitized all the new building (NB) applications filed in Manhattan for each year, from 1900 to 1986, and turned it into a database searchable by a number of variables, like address, architect, owner and type of building.
View Full Image
Portion of New Building application for the Dakota, 1880

BASIC SEARCH TIPS:

  • If you just want to determine the date and architect of your building, and you live, for instance, on West 86th Street in a building you think was built around 1930, search for "86th" in the address field and work backwards from 1933 or so. Bear in mind that the present 130 West 86th may have been files as 124-132 West 86th, or even simply 128 West 86th.

  • Some permits are not rendered in address form, but in "metes and bounds"--that is, "86th, 175'e of Amsterdam" indicates the building lot beginning 175' east of the corner of West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. To interpret this, go to a library with a collection of landmaps of New York City (which give such measurements)--there are none on-line. It may be crude, but it's not that much trouble to eyeball, or even measure, the distances yourself.

  • A limited alternative is www.nycpropertyresearch.com which gives the exact measurements of the building's plot, and some other details which can help in determining metes and bounds descriptions.

ADVANCED SEARCH TIPS: Use additional search parameters to--

  • Find all the building applications filed by a particular owner or architect (including projects which were not built)

  • Or find all the applications where the owner gave a particular address (which can help when one owner operates under multiple names),

  • Or find all the buildings of a particular type built in a particular period.

  • Another route to finding the NB application for a particular building is to go to the new web page of the New York City Department of Buildings which lists in many cases, the particular NB number for a specific address. Go to the Department's web site, key in the address, and then look under "Actions"; in most cases you will find an NB associated with your building (for instance, NB "336-11" is the 336th new building application filed in 1911). NB's were first issued in 1866; if yours is 1900 or later you should be able to get the details of that application here, simply by searching for the relevant year and application number. (Congratulations to Commissioner Patricia Lancaster and her tech staff for this astonishing upgrade to the Department's website.)

  • The search engine recognizes word roots, wildcards (*) and leading and following blank spaces. Thus "farge" will return "LaFarge" and La Farge," but "_Farge" will return only "La Farge." A search for "LaF*arge" will return "LaFarge," "LaForge, etc.

    CAVEATS:
  • Not all building permits are carried out. and some are changed in scope after filing.
  • Many buildings are alterations of older structures--alterations are a completely different set of applications.
  • Some applications are filed against one cross street and not another--You may have to search both. There are many flaws, omissions and typos in this list - most from the original source. We cannot recommend highly enougn the painstaking work of data entry by Mudra Typesetters
  • If you don't find some specific works by a particular architect, do a sort for the office address - which will pick up spelling variants. Numbered streets are rendered as "5th", numbered avenues are spelled out, like "Fifth."
  • 2d and 3d were inconsistently used in the original sources; in the case of cross streets we have added 2nd and 3rd to the record, [in brackets]. Twentieth century address and numbering changes - most importantly Sixth Avenue to Avenue of the Americas - need correction not available here.
  • These NBs cover only 1900-1986, but NB's were also issued from 1868-1899. The website of the Department of Buildings usually uses the form "NB 24/79"--but that could be 1879 or 1979.

    CREDITS

    Project Team: Christopher Gray, Manager and Suzanne Braley, Researcher

    Data Entry: G. E. Satheesh, head of Mudra Typesetters

    Data conversion: , Beverly B. de Monterice of Methods Plus

    Website: Davida Scharf, of NKR Associates Inc