About Me

My photo
thought i was a donut, ya tried to glaze me

12.22.2009

Mapping

For Christmas my dad asked for a photograph of our house. Not just any photograph, of course, but one taken during the 1940s by the tax department of New York City, which documented every structure in the five boroughs. He read that the municipal archives were offering up copies of these photos--8 X 10s off of microfilm--and thought it would be cool.

There was an option to order the photo online or via mail, but I didn't trust sending it off and decided to go in person. I didn't mind. I like having an excuse to spend time inside the buildings down by City Hall.

I get inside 31 Chambers into the room off to the side that houses the records. inside are old guys hunched over microfilm machines, taking notes off of old marriage and birth records. I told the woman at the desk why I was there and they had a guy come in from a back room to translate my address into what it was back when they identified places by wards.

I had a hard time reading the microfilm and at first pulled the wrong photo roll out. It took me a while to realize it wasn't my neighborhood--judging by the houses I'd say it was Forest Hills or Rego Park, small frame houses. I went back to the microfilm index.

My house was listed on Ward Five, Block 709, Lot 24. It was on roll A-124 After working my way through the microfilm--which identified the area as Queens, with Rockaway put in parenthesis--I found the roll my house was on and went to the filing cabinet. I spent a few minutes reading and re-reading the boxes before noticing a little note.

"Rolls A1-A199 Do Not Exist."

I went up to the lady behind the counter.

"What does it mean?" I asked.

"It means just that," she said. "There's your answer."

Meaning, the rolls of film that contain the photographs of my entire peninsula no longer exist.


Rockaway doesn't exist.

(Tell me something I didn't know).

I wonder if my writing has even improved?