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The Philadelphia Department of Records has over 2 million photographs dating back to the late nineteenth century. Among these photographs are stunning pictures of ships arriving at dock, horse-drawn carriages on cobble streets, and the Eastern State Penitentiary, America’s most historic prison. The website is a GIS application that allows the public to search for historic photographs based on location. Users can locate photographs within a certain neighborhood, within a radius of an address, near a particular intersection, or by a place name like City Hall.  In addition, users can search for photographs during certain years and they can search the descriptions of photographs by keyword. Also available on the website is a weekly updated historical blog and digital access to the Department of Records’ Historic Streets Index and Historical Photo Database. Users can make scan requests and purchase photos.

Sentence - short version is a mapping website that allows users to search for, view by location, and purchase thousands of historic photographs dating back to the late nineteenth century.

Creating search links

You can create a link to an area of interest in the city by using the following URL and parameters. There are several optional parameters for specifying a location, keywords, time period and other options.

Location Parameters

To search by a location the system needs to know the type of location and one or more required parameters for the type of search.

Be aware that any spaces in a parameter value must be replaced with either %20 or +.

Address - A Philadelphia street address, intersection or place name. Use the word 'and' instead of the ampersand (&) symbol.

Neighborhood - A neighborhood name from the list below. Case matters.

Point - City coordinates in PA State Plane South Feet - note that the maxx and maxy parameter values are identical to the minx and miny values

Area - City coordinates in PA State Plane South Feet.

Neighborhood List
Academy Gardens Glenwood Pennypack Woods
Allegheny West Graduate Hospital Penrose
Andorra Grays Ferry Point Breeze
Angora Greenwich Port Richmond
Aston-Woodbridge Haddington Powelton
Bartram Village Harrowgate Queen Village
Bella Vista Hartranft Rhawnhurst
Belmont Haverford North Richmond
Brewerytown Hawthorne Rittenhouse
Bridesburg Holmesburg Riverfront
Burholme Hunting Park Roxborough
Bustleton Juniata Park Roxborough Park
Byberry Kensington, Lower Schuylkill
Carroll Park Kensington, Old Sharswood
Cedar Park Kensington, West Society Hill
Cedarbrook Kingsessing Somerton
Center City East Lawndale South Philadelphia
Chestnut Hill Lexington Park Southwark East
Chinatown Logan Southwest Cedar Park
Chinatown North Logan Circle Southwest Schuylkill
Clearview Ludlow Spring Garden
Cobbs Creek Manayunk Spruce Hill
Crescentville Mantua Stanton
Crestmont Farms Mayfair Strawberry Mansion
Dearnley Park McGuire Summerdale
Dunlap Mechanicsville Tacony
East Falls Melrose Park Gardens Tioga
East Oak Lane Mill Creek Torresdale
East Park Millbrook University City
East Parkside Modena Upper Kensington
East Poplar Morrell Park Upper Roxborough
Eastwick Mount Airy, East Walnut Hill
Elmwood Mount Airy, West Washington Square
Fairhill Navy Yard West Oak Lane
Fairmount Nicetown West Park
Feltonville Normandy Village West Parkside
Fern Rock North Central West Poplar
Fishtown Northeast Phila Airport West Powelton
Fox Chase Northern Liberties West Torresdale
Francisville Northwood Wharton
Frankford Ogontz Whitman
Franklin Mills Old City Winchester Park
Franklinville Olney Wissahickon
Garden Court Overbrook Wissahickon Hills
Germantown, East Oxford Circle Wissahickon Park
Germantown, Morton Packer Park Wissinoming
Germantown, Penn Knox Parkwood Manor Wister
Germantown, Southwest Paschall Woodland Terrace
Germantown, West Central Passyunk Wynnefield
Germantown, Westside Pennsport Wynnefield Heights
Germany Hill Pennypack Yorktown
Girard Estates Pennypack Park  


The title and description text fields will be searched for the keywords provided.



A query for one or more topics can be made by providing a list of topics. Assignment of topics is a relatively new feature and has a limited number of records.

  topics=Aerial View+Construction

The list of topics is growing. Below are the currently available topics along with the number of records assigned to the topic in parenthesis.

Aerial View Delaware River People
Architecture Health Railroad
Art Horse Restaurant
Boat Hospital Schuylkill River
Bridge Infrastructure Store
Car Monument Theatre
Cemetery Panorama Transportation
Church Parade Wagon
Construction Park

From Date and/or To Date

Time period can be searched in three ways. Currently the date is only the year.

After or during a year

Before or during a year

Between a range of years

Within Collections

Include records only in certain collections. Spaces are allowed as part of the collection name.

  collections=DOR Archives+DOR Property Maps

*Valid names are: DOR Archives, Free Library Historic Maps, DOR Property Maps, Phila. Water Dept. Photographs and DOR Archives - Sesquicentennial

Without Digitized Media

Include records without digitized media.

Without digitized media

With digitized media

Without Location

Include records without a location.

Without location

With location

Latest/ recently updated records

Records modified in the last XX days.


*Valid numbers are: 0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 30, 60, 90, 180 and 365. Use 0 to search for records updated anytime.

Sort Order

How the results should be sorted.



*Valid values are: Distance, CircaDesc, CircaAsc and UpdatedDateDesc.

Within Search Results

Display a search starting at a specific record and with a specific page count.



Both images and maps

*Valid limit values are: 12, 16, 20 and 24.
*Valid start values are 0 or multiples of the limit value provided.


Search around the address 340 N 12th St.

Search the neighborhood of East Falls

Search around a specific point.

Search for banks during 1910 to 1930.

Search for DOR Maps starting on the 48th map, displaying 24 maps per page. Property Maps&mstart=48&mlimit=24

Citation Guidelines

[Adapted from “How to Cite Electronic Resources.” Library of Congress (accessed August 4, 2006)].

Website citation

Chicago Style  Philadelphia Department of Records (accessed January 1, 2006).

MLA Style  Philadelphia Department of Records.  1 January 2006.  <>.


Photograph citation

Chicago Style

  1. Photographer’s last name, first name, middle initial (if given). [Include role after name, i.e. photographer.]
  2. Photo Archive ID
  3. Format (photograph).
  4. City: Department,* copyright date (include c [circa] if given; if no date, use n.d.).
  5. Source (From Library of Congress in normal font).
  6. URL.
  7. Accessed date (in parentheses).

* These include Department of Schools; Department of Public Works; Department of City Transit; Department of Wharves, Docks and Ferries.

“Schools:2629-0.”  Photograph.  Philadelphia: Department of Schools, 1912.  From
     (accessed January 9, 2006).

MLA Style

  1. Photographer's last name, first name, middle initial) (if given).
  2. Photo Archive ID
  3. Original date of photograph (if available).
  4. Current location of original document.
  5. Name of project or reference database (underlined or italicized).
  6. Sponsoring organization.
  7. Date of access and electronic address.


“Schools:2629-0.”  1912.  Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records.  1 Jan. 2006 

Creating RSS links

You can create a link to an rss feed by using any valid search parameters plus one required rss parameter.

RSS Feed Name

A short descriptive name for the RSS feed. Spaces are allowed within the name.

  name=My RSS Feed