Map It! Looking Back at Lewis Street
Today on Map It! we’re unearthing some old maps and photos of Lewis Street, which once ran diagonally from Grand Street to East 8th Street between Avenue D and the East River. It was almost completely de-mapped in the mid-20th century to make way for three public housing complexes: the Jacob Riis Houses (built 1945-49) and the Lillian Wald Houses (built 1945-50), both located above Houston Street, and the Baruch Houses (completed 1959) below Houston. The only remaining portion of the street is the block between Grand and Delancey Streets where P.S. 188 now stands.
The above photo is a small wooden house formerly located at the corner of East 7th and Lewis Streets, the site of today’s Jacob Riis Houses. It was taken in 1932 by Charles von Urban. Elements of the area’s industrial past can be seen here; the Willard Hawes & Co. Lumber Yard found on the 1916 Bromley map appears to still be operating at the time this photo was taken based on the wall sign to the right of the car.
Here is the 1857 Perris index map showing Lewis Street in context with the rest of the neighborhood. This was well before Houston Street was widened, and you can see how the four streets on either side of Lewis ran one block north of Houston. Lewis originally ran from Grand to Houston, and was extended north to East 8th Street in 1828.
This part of the map is particularly interesting to me because several years ago I discovered through census research that my great-great-grandparents and their children lived in a tenement on Goerck Street just to the east of Lewis. Goerck was also de-mapped to make way for the Baruch Houses.
Thanks to the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) online collection, we’re able to recreate bits and pieces of Lewis Street here on Off the Grid. Above is the corner of East 3rd Street, taken by Arnold Eagle in 1935 for the Federal Art Project. The photo shows low-scale 19th century rowhouses that had, by that time, been converted to tenements.
Stepping back in time some 30 years, this is what bustling Houston Street looked like in March 1902. Gabled wooden structures with shutters and tall chimneys mix with brick tenements, and trolley lines run through the Belgian block streets. You have to love seeing this kind of thing in Manhattan.
This is the corner of Grand Street, which was the southern end of Lewis Street. Just look at the size of those storefront awnings! And then there’s the child standing on the sidewalk lost in a sea of advertisements. The photo was taken by Charles von Urban in 1932, likely at the same time as the photo at the top of this post. The MCNY added an “abandoned” tag to this photo, and it seems like that refers to the 19th century rowhouse at the corner.
Love old maps as much as we do? Explore more in the Map It! series.