Local writer Marjorie Cohen, member of the planning group of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group, wrote this post for Brick Underground (https://www.brickunderground.com/) which has given us permission to reproduce it here.
When Brian Hartig and his husband first bought a brownstone in Bed-Stuy and set about the process of renovating it, almost immediately "things started falling out of the walls," he recalls. "We were finding them under the floor boards." The "things," it turned out, were artifacts left behind by the families who had lived in the house before them.
"I had a regular curio cabinet full of objects by the time we were done," he says, including Victorian children's blocks from the 1890s, a shoe catalog, and an old receipt dating back to the 1910s. These random finds sparked Hartig’s interest in the history of his new home, and he started to research it in earnest, ultimately finding records showing that the property was farmland the 1700s and owned by Jacobus van de Water, mayor of New Amsterdam in 1673.
These days, Hartig does this kind of research for a living at his company, Brownstone Detectives, taking requests from clients who want to know more about their homes, doing the research for them, and putting it all into a book at the end of the process. "Clients tell me what they want to know and I get to follow the clues….We’ve uncovered stories of Baseball Hall of Famers, murderers, Civil War heroes, unexplained fires, explosions, deceit, corruption, unrequited love, and much, much more."
Starting your own search
If you're interested in uncovering details about your own home—from when it was built, to what your neighborhood used to look like, to who used to live there—the city has a surprising number of resources available for armchair history buffs.