Brooklyn’s 1938 “Redline” Map

During the middle of the 20th-century, America’s urban cores were being gutted through fiscal attrition: tax dollars were being sent, for the first time, out and away from cities to subsidize suburban expansion. At the same time, private financial institutions were pulling their funding away from urban home-buyers, business owners and those wishing to refinance for home maintenance and improvements. This practice of selective geographic financing was known as “redlining“, and it helped decimate specific neighborhoods via disinvestment and blight.

 

A few months ago, I found one of the original redlining maps for Brooklyn, New York (UPDATE: For more than 250 digital maps, please refer to the UrbanOasis.org HOLC library, which have amazingly digitized records from the National Archives). While not explicitly a map with any “red lines” it clearly identified the “security” of lending to certain residential blocks (or entire neighborhoods). I went ahead and slightly updated the map to show existing Brooklyn Community Board boundaries, as well as the existing subway lines, to help and provide a better sense of context.

 

1938 Brooklyn Redline map

1938 Brooklyn Redline map. UrbanOasis.org via National Archives (NARA II RG 195 Entry 39 Folder “Brooklyn (Kings Co.)” Box 58). Edited by ASommer, PlaNYourCity.

 

 

You can see on the bottom left corner of the map the legend, where Green is “Grade A” financing, all the way to Red, which was “Grade D” financing. While this map does not specifically say “Do not finance these areas,” it clearly says certain areas are bad investments.

 

 

So, if you lived in Brooklyn during 1938, would you have been able to receive any financing for your home? Would you have been able to refinance for that new boiler, facade, or would you have been able to sell your house to a new buyer?

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  1. A Monument to Henrietta Lacks in Union Square and Other Art in Odd Places - Numerologia Cabalística - October 15, 2016

    […] AiOP was founded in 2005 and, since 2008, has staged art on 14th Street, with past themes including last year’s Recall, which hosted returning projects, and 2011’s Ritual. The 2016 edition had no monumental pieces — such as the towering Edward Snowden statue in 2014’s Free. Race was much more about participation and conversation, from the “Speaker’s Corner” where various people engaged in dialogue from a sidewalk platform, to Katya Grokhovsky and Luis Mejico’s “Let’s Talk About Race,” which attempted to make a temporary “safe space” for dialogue, to Walis Johnson, Murray Cox, and Aimee vonBokel’s “The Red Line Archive,” a mobile history museum responding to urban segregation enabled by the 1938 “Red Line” map. […]

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  2. Redlining – Urban Studies 101 - March 10, 2017

    […] 1938 Brooklyn Redline map. UrbanOasis.org via National Archives (NARA II RG 195 Entry 39 Folder “Brooklyn (Kings Co.)” Box 58). Edited by ASommer, PlaNYourCity. https://planyourcity.net/2014/04/28/brooklyns-1938-redline-map/ […]

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