Kenneth Cobb, assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Records and Information Services, looks through court records dating back to the 1700s in the Municipal Archives. Photos by David Handschuh/NYLJ.
Hundreds of metal cans containing films of mayoral press conferences from the 1960s.
Cloth bound books of convictions from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Cobb holds conservation boxes of minutes from the Common Council, the first elected legislative branch in New York City, after the British left New York.
Leather bound deeds and certificates of incorporation from Brooklyn.
City carpenters constructed wooden frames for reflecting pools on the site of the World Trade Center first memorial in 2002.
Police Court records and complaint files from 1856.
Handwritten and typewritten letters and memos from Mayor John Lindsay's time in office.
Leather bound board meetings and tax lists from Brooklyn from 1875.
Record of "The People vs. Virginia Cline," dating back to 1888, stating that Ms. Cline was charged with "Keeping a House of Ill Fame."
An amazing collection of court records dating back to the earliest days of the five boroughs is housed in the New York City Municipal Archives.
It includes Police Court complaints from 1858 and records from such cases as The People v. Virginia Cline, who was charged with “Keeping a House of Ill Fame” (April 9, 1888). Here, the witness-statement page reads: “On the examination of our only witness for the people I am satisfied no case can be made against defendant.” The indictment against Cline was apparently dismissed.
Cloth-bound books of convictions from the late 1800s and early 1900s are kept on shelves next to cracked leather-bound books of Flatbush Town Board meetings and School District No. 9 tax lists from Brooklyn, circa 1875.
Acid-free conservation boxes, which provide protection against dust and other airborne particles, protect minutes from the Common Council, the predecessor of today’s New York City Council and the first elected legislative branch after the British left the city.
Some of the oldest artifacts in the collection are shelved next to wooden frames constructed by city carpenters in 2002 for the reflecting pools on the site of the World Trade Center’s first memorial. Ten years’ worth of photographs, mementos and handwritten notes from those ceremonies have been stored in these archives.
Handwritten and typewritten letters and memos from Mayor John Lindsay’s time in office are there along with hundreds of metal cans containing films of mayoral press conferences from the 1960s.
It is all part of a remarkable array of history on paper and microfilm stored in 30,000 cubic feet of temperature and humidity-controlled space in the majestic Beaux Art style Surrogate’s Courthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? An additional 226,000 cubic feet of city history is archived at other locations, and with an advanced request, documents can be brought to and viewed at the Surrogate’s Courthouse.
“We’re digitizing records to minimize handling and to provide access online,” said Kenneth Cobb, assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Records and Information Services. “In the public room, all the records we have in our collection are open to everyone. We don’t take anything into the municipal records that we can’t display or offer to the public.”
The Municipal Archives, located at 31 Chambers St., is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.