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Guide to the Harris Pierce Photographs
 PR 270

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Lucas Buresch and Kelly McAnnaney

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 14, 2019
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Pierce, Harris
Title: Harris Pierce photographs
Dates [inclusive]: 1888-1900
Abstract: Photographs of street gradings and improvements, as well as residences and businesses in the Bronx during the mid 1890s. Digital copies of the images in the collection are available on-line through the Digital Collections pages of N-YHS's website.
Quantity: 5.5 Linear feet
Call Phrase: PR 270

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Biographical Note

Little is known about Harris Pierce, but his stamp appears on the verso of the photographs, and gives his address as 1921 Oostdorp Ave and his profession as 'Photographer'. Oostdorp St. is the former name of the present Bryant Avenue from East Tremont Avenue to Bronx Park. 1921 Oostdorp Avenue was on the west side, south of E 177th Street and north of Boston Road. Trow's New York City Directory lists Harris Pierce's profession from 1883-1908 as 'Stenographer' at various addresses on Nassau Street, with his home in the West Farms area of the Bronx.

The photographs appear to have been made as evidence in supporting the cases of claimants filing for damages against the city. Some of the photographs are mounted on boards with a form on the verso for recording information about the image. The form includes the names of Thomas S. Bassford and Ernest Hall, lawyers representing the claimants.

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Scope and Content Note

The Harris Pierce photographs span the period from 1888-1900 and primarily include 300 gelatin silver photographs of residences and businesses during the grading and improvements of streets in the Bronx. The photographs include views of the construction of sewers, construction sites, street improvements and grading, residences, vegetable gardens, children, churches, and businesses such as grocery stores, brewers and liquor stores, bakers, barbers, plumbers, and real estate offices. The photographs also include views of the New York Central Harlem Line and train stations such as the Tremont Station, social clubs such as the Suburban Club, the Artistic Bronze Co., the American Pie Baking Co., and stables and feed stores.

Most of the photographs are marked on the verso with either the street address or the block and lot numbers. The majority of the photographs were made along Webster Avenue, Vanderbilt (now Park) Avenue, Brooke Avenue, and Washington Avenue from 144th Street in the south to 178th Street in the north. Many of the photographs were made along Vanderbilt Avenue, which from E 161 St to 167 St was the 19th century name for the present Park Avenue. Below 161 Street the avenue was referred to as Railroad Avenue, or RR Avenue. The photographs marked with either street addresses or intersections in brackets were given based on the block and lot numbers. These addresses were derived by consulting the 1897 Atlas of the City of New York: 23rd & 24th Wards from Actual Surveys and Official Plans by George W. and Walter S. Bromley.

The block numbers given on the photographs are numbers from prior to the annexation of 1895, including those photographs that are dated after that year. In 1874 the city of New York annexed the area of the Bronx south of Yonkers and west of the Bronx River from Westchester County. This area was given block and lot numbers that were used until the 1895 annexation of the Bronx east of the Bronx River. After 1895 the numbering system for blocks was changed. The new (post-1895) block numbers can be found on maps after 1895 with the 'old' numbers marked in parentheses. It appears that the photographer was using the term 'ward number' for what was actually the lot number. All the photographs were made in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth wards (the Bronx).

Photographs that could not be identified based on the geographic location of the subject were placed into the "Unidentified" folders and further divided by type of building: commercial, empty lots, and residences. These photographs include many of the same subjects as the identified photographs, but lack both block and lot numbers and street addresses.

The only photograph in the collection that is known not to have been made by Harris Pierce is the view of 1940 Park Avenue taken by Louis C. Bennett.


Arranged by street name, then unidentified photographs by building type.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Bassford, Thomas S., 1861-1921
  • Hall, Ernest, 1845-1920

Document Type

  • Gelatin silver prints.
  • Photographic prints.

Subject Topics

  • Buildings -- New York (State) -- Bronx County
  • Dwellings -- New York (State) -- Bronx County
  • Grading (Earthwork) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Pavements -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Roads -- Design and construction -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Streets -- New York (State) -- New York -- Maintenance and repair

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers, by advance appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact the Print Room Librarian at

Use Restrictions

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, 212-485-9228

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Harris Pierce photographs, PR 270, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections

For other materials relating to the Bronx see the Geographic File (PR 020), and for transportation in the Bronx see the Subway Construction Photograph Collection (PR 069).

Other Finding Aids

A detailed spreadsheet listing all the photographs in the collection with property owner, address, block and lot number, date, and building type can be found in the collection file in the Print Room.

On-line Digital Collection

Digital copies of the images in the collection were made by N-YHS and are available on-line through the Digital Collections pages of N-YHS's website.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Herbert Berger-Hershkowitz, 6 July 2007.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1-4 Brook Avenue
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Courtlandt Avenue
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Olin Avenue
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Park Avenue
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Railroad Avenue
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Spencer Place
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Talmadge Street
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Tremont Ave
n. d.
Box: 2 Folder : 12-25 Vanderbilt Avenue
1891, 1894-98
Box: 3 Folder : 26-29 Washington Avenue
1891, 1894-95
Box: 4 Folder : 30 Webster Avenue
Box: 4 Folder : 31 Williamsbridge
Box: 4 Folder : 32 144th Street
1891, 1893, 1895
Box: 4 Folder : 33 146th Street
Box: 4 Folder : 34 148th Street
1891, 1893-94
Box: 4 Folder : 35 149th Street
1891, 1894
Box: 4 Folder : 36 150th-151st Streets
Box: 4 Folder : 37 155th Street
Box: 4 Folder : 38 156th Street
1896, 1898
Box: 4 Folder : 39 160-161st Street
1891, 1894, 1896
Box: 4 Folder : 40 162nd Street
Box: 4 Folder : 41-43 163rd Street
1891, 1894-96
Box: 5 Folder : 44 167th Street
Box: 5 Folder : 46 173th Street
1894, 1896
Box: 5 Folder : 47 174th Street
Box: 5 Folder : 48 175th Street
Box: 5 Folder : 49 176th Street
Box: 5 Folder : 50 177th Street
Box: 5 Folder : 51 178th Street
Box: 5 Folder : 52 183rd Street
Box: 5 Folder : 53 Unidentified -- Commercial
1888, 1896-98
Box: 5 Folder : 54-55 Unidentified -- Empty Lots
Box: 6 Folder : 56-62 Unidentified -- Residential
1893, 1896-98, 1900

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