Who slept with your apartment before you?

Are you savvy to your building's history?

The most curious aspect of my Bushwick apartment, after the painstakingly hand-painted portrait of Capt. Jack Sparrow on one wall, is the one room that’s about six inches off the ground. A drunken neighbor explained the history of 308: previous tenants turned that room into a grow room and needed floor space for the hardware (the painting, however, remains a mystery). If you don’t have a neighbor with a deep well of hyperlocal history, the New York Public Library is ready to help, as long as you’re ready to dig. Gothamist tells us the library has laid out step-by-step instructions on how to find out who lived in your building, why it was built, what changes were made and other neat things about the ghosts of the city’s past.

The library’s Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy has laid out all the steps you can take to learn about your building. You have to sift through lots of records, but by reading through everything as mundane as census data and as morbid as obituaries, you can put together the definitive history of your apartment and the people who came before you and did unspeakable things with the lights off. Although if the next tenants in my apartment come asking, I’m telling them that I painted Captain Jack.

Follow David: @HerbertHarper.


  1. Of course, the former tenants probably had overnight guests at one point or another, which means it is impossible to know everyone who slept with your apartment before you. That’s why Brooklynites should always use rubber sheets.

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