Visiting NYC? Cool App To Learn About The Histories Of The Buildings You See While On The Go

by SharonKurheg

New York City has a lot of cool, old buildings that go as far back as 1652, and I personally love to find pictures of what they looked like when they were being built (well, maybe not the one from 1652 LOL), or were still very new. I enjoy seeing how they may have changed over time, not to mention what the surrounding neighborhood looked like in the background. You know, stuff like this:


Phases of construction of Flatiron Building, circa 1900. PC: By Credited to the Library of Congress – From The Times online store, located here., Public Domain,

The problem was that if I was walking around NYC, I could rarely learn about the building as I was walking around. At least, not with stopping to look it up. And if I waited until I got back to the hotel or home, I’d forget what I was going to look up or I couldn’t appreciate seeing the old photos with the real thing right in front of me.

But it looks like someone has fixed that problem…

A friend of mine sent me an email not long ago:

When I was in NYC, I found this really cool app. You could click on a map of the buildings around you and see historical pictures of them! If you wanted to take a side-by-side comparison photo, you could. It was super fun!

The app is called Urban Archive NYC and it is indeed really cool. Say you’re walking north on Broadway and go past 1619 Broadway. You see some ornate decoration on the building and it just looks…cool. If you bring up Urban Archive, you learn this:


The app has literally thousands of bits of info like this and includes a map of the 5 boroughs of New York, so you can see the buildings for which they have information.

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 5.53.30 PM.png

The developer, Urban Archive, is a technological 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Its mission is, “to inspire learning that is rooted in what’s local — the architecture, culture, and unique stories of New York City.”

From their website:

Other Stats:

We are working with 40 institutions across the city.

To date, we’ve mapped 80,321 images across 32,850 locations, published 5,724 contextual posts, curated 67 walking tours, assembled 79 thematic collections, profiled the lives of 95 historical New Yorkers, and co-hosted 26 scavenger hunts.

In 2018 alone our users:

  • viewed 1.5 million images
  • checked in to 49,114 locations
  • received 86,184 push notifications
  • recreated 15,415 then-and-now photographs

What’s particularly fun are the “Then and Now” recreations they have on file on their website and/or their Instagram, where you can see a photo of what a building looks like now and one of what it looked like however many decades back, right next to each other.


Their website and app have some other tidbits of NYC history-related activities. Overall, it’s a nice addition to just walking around the five boroughs and I’m going to keep the Urban Archive app on my phone for the next time we’re in New York.

Urban Archive:

iOS App:

A HUGE thank-you to Caitlin Y. for letting us know about this topic!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Christian June 21, 2019 - 1:03 pm

Nice. I’m not a fan of NYC, but this app might help change my mind. Any idea if other cities have something similar in mind?

SharonKurheg June 21, 2019 - 11:36 pm

Sorry, I don’t know. A friend of mine told me about this one. I wonder if you contacted the NYC people, if they would know?

Kelli Burkett August 31, 2020 - 1:39 am

This is awesome! Thanks for the cool find!

SharonKurheg August 31, 2020 - 11:02 am

You’re welcome! Someone else brought it up to us and we thought it was something worth sharing 🙂


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