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Map It! Looking Back at Lewis Street

Source: Museum of the City of New York online collection. Charles von Urban, 1932.

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.

1857 Perris & Browne fire insurance index map. Source: New York Public Library digital collection.

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.

Source: Museum of the City of New York. Photo by Arnold Eagle, 1935.

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.

Source: Museum of the City of New York. Photo by George Arata, March 1902.

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.

Source: Museum of the City of New York. Photo by Charles von Urban, 1932.

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.

21 responses to “Map It! Looking Back at Lewis Street

  1. I aunt lived at 500 Houston for many years and I remember as a kid wondering why the school building on the northern side of Houston said Lewis street on one side and Manhattan street on the other side. But I noticed in the map that Manhattan is not shown. Must have been cut through after that map was printed.

    1. Hi Mike, sorry for only seeing this comment now. I didn’t know about Manhattan Street, but I just checked and it is there! I used the 1857 map index in this blog post, which isn’t as detailed as each individual map. If you look at plate 31 you will see it. I bet it’s not on the map index because it’s so small. It was also still there in the 1916 map. Thanks for commenting and pointing out this forgotten street – I will feature it in a future Map It! post for sure. 1857 map link: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-bf54-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

    1. You can look at the 1900 Census (if you have a particular person that you are looking for that lived at that address) and and look at the previous or later pages. They usually listed occupants in order of the address of the block.

  2. My grandfather, Rabbi Isaac Langer, who was the Grand Rebbe of Stretyn. His Synagogue and home were located at 110 Lewis St. His arrival around 1920 or so was covered in the New York Times. Any additional info would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I’m doing some research into my mother’s family and her grandmother, Mary Langer was married to her grandfather, Herman Alweis and they lived at 106 Lewis Street. There must be some family relation there between the Rabbi and her grandmother.

    2. My great-grandfather Harry (Hirsh) Altein also lived at 110 Lewis St. in the 1920s. (I’m assuming the address included multiple dwellings.)

  3. My great-grandparents, Nathan and Ester Scheib, lived at 26 Lewis Street from 1900 to 1920 with their kids, according to the US census. Would love to find a photo of the building!

  4. I have a string of old cardboard milk caps that state

  5. I also had relatives that lived on Goereck Street (94, 95 and 109) the only picture that I can find on Goereck Street is from the photo of the Edison Machine Works building which was located at 104 Goereck Street.

  6. My great-great grandfather, Raphael lived at 483 E. Houston St. from 1863-1892 when he passed away…my grandfather, Gilbert Michel was born at 483 E. Houston St. in 1891….483 E. Houston was at the intersection with Lewis Street…there was a Hungarian/Jewish restaurant there around 1891…I have two photos of that intersection from around 1891…does anyone know the name of that restaurant?….thanks in advance!

  7. My Great Grandfather’s arrival manifest to NY says he was going to his brother (whom I am trying to locate info on without luck) said the address was 64 Lewy Street or Levy Street, Brooklyn, New York – only thing I can find in Lewis Street but not in Brooklyn correct? The year is 1903. Any ideas?

  8. My grandmother Minnie Wechselfeld was born on 63 Lewis Street in 1914 and her younger siblings were born there too.
    My grandfather Louis Bernstein immigrated from Kovel, Poland to 65 Lewis Street in 1921 with his mother and siblings as his father was already there.
    Any links or pictures that anyone knows of for that location would be extremely appreciated especially since I am coming into NY soon and am planning to go to Rivington and Delancey to see the LES and would like to visit that area even if those tenements are no longer in that location. I have pictures from them with the Williamsburg Bridge in the background as the are on the tenement roof, so hope to find the approximate area.
    Greatly appreciate any input.

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