Balcony Seats to the City: "Officially of course, the urban fire escape is primarily an emergency exit, but in New York, this prosaic adornment of countless five- and six-story apartment houses has assumed myriad other functions: faux backyards, platforms for criminal getaways, oases for marginalized smokers and makeshift bedrooms popular during an age before air-conditioning." [more inside]
The Trickster Prince is academic and historian Matt Houlbrook's blog about the ephemera and little-known stories of the English inter-war period (and before) with a focus on class-jumping, queer narratives, "faking it", and urban society in the 20s and 30s.
Visiting the Big Apple? "Don't ask a pedestrian where a certain street is. He is usually too busy to stop, and if polite enough to stop, won't know. No New Yorker knows anything about New York." And another kind reminder: "Don't gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable, notwithstanding and nevertheless. They are also smart." Advice from Valentine’s City of New York: A Guide Book, published in 1920. [more inside]
An amateur film shot in 1939 by French tourist Jean Vivier documents a trip to New York City, in color.
More than just pictures of electric Brill, Flyer and Pullman buses, trolleybuses.net has some great old street-level shots of many cities in North America.
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [more inside]
For their 43rd anniversary issue, New York Magazine chose "to explore, across time, one of the things that has most defined New York life for centuries and has become a unit of measurement for our successes and failures: The Apartment: A History of Vertical Living" / Sardine Life: What a century and a half of piled-up housing reveals about us. [more inside]
In the 1960's, 70's and 80's, urban decay and high crime rates caused retail chain supermarkets to flee New York City. (google books link) Korean immigrants filled the gap with corner grocery stores. For nearly two decades they were ubiquitous -- symbols of the group's ongoing quest to achieve the American Dream. But 30 years later, Where Did The Korean Greengrocers Go? [more inside]
Lviv Interactive, a project of the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, is mapping the history, architecture, and human landscape of the City of Lions - including locations no longer there. [more inside]
Uneven Terrain is a series of short documentaries about urban exploration, about 10-15 minutes long each. There are six so far, about monumental ruins in New York, Centralia, the Pennsylvania town where an underground coalseam has been on fire since the 1960s, abandoned missile silos in the US and how they're being turned into homes, oil drilling in Los Angeles, the Teufelberg listening station and the abandoned bunkers under Tempelhof Airport in Berlin and pirate radio in London and on the old Redsand sea forts. Each short doc has a different presenter. All have accompanying photo galleries. [These are produced for the bootmaker Palladium, but it's pretty low-key]
Envisioning Chinese Society in the Late Nineteenth Century: Words and Images from the Dianshizhai Pictorial Very nice online presentation of translated content from the famed nineteenth century Shanghai pictorial journal (China's first); Dianshizhai (点石斋画报) was modelled on Britain's Punch and produced as a supplement for Shen Bao subscribers. Flash is used so elements in the cartoons can be clicked for further information: a young woman repels a thief with martial derring-do; a customer bilks on the bill in a street eatery in Hangzhou; small-town society and politics with the muddle-headed magistrate; a non-performing temple bell offers a chance for sceptical commentary on religion; the gentlemanly pastime of cricket-fighting.
National Trust Releases 2009 List of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple. Additional detail and sites from past years here.
One minute and four seconds in London, 1904. Birkbeck College professor Ian Christie rediscovered this footage in an archive in Canberra, shot for a travelogue by film pioneer Charles Urban.
John Stilgoe is a professor at Harvard who teaches his students how to, among other things, mindfully observe the urban and suburban environments they inhabit. [more inside]
Photography of the unexpected and neglected architecture. Romain Meffre and Yves Marchand travel the world photographing "singular and surprising buildings of all domains," mostly 19th and 20th century urban and industrial architecture. Don't miss the photos of Detroit (under Projects), or more of Marchand's stunning work at his personal site.
Curating the City A Flash exhibition exploring the past and present urban landscape of Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. A modest topic explored in depth - which is perhaps what makes it so fascinating. The site includes a pdf guidebook, in case you want to check out the bricks-and-mortar version.
Harlem 1900-1940, a site full of pictures and history. The scope of this portfolio is Harlem from the years 1900-1940. Various elements of the history of the urban experience in Harlem's early days as the Cultural Capital of African Americans are represented here by graphic and photographic images from the Schomburg Center collection.