Scope and arrangement
The Serrell-Opdycke-Patrick Papers document the evolution of property ownership and land use in New York City and the development of the city's urban infrastructure of streets and sewers especially during the latter half of the 19th century (1840s-1890s). Over one-half of the collection consists of New York City land maps and surveys arranged by city block number with collateral papers including correspondence, engineering notes and field notebooks. The papers reflect the surveying and engineering work of James E. Serrell (1820-1892), Henry G. Opdycke (1870-1938), the firm of Opdycke & Thomson, and (to a lesser extent) of William R. Patrick, all of whom were city surveyors and civil engineers practicing in New York City. Included also are personal and miscellaneous papers of James E. Serrell, Henry G. Opdycke, and (to a lesser extent) of William R. Patrick relating mainly to their professional careers.
The Serrell-Opdycke-Patrick papers are arranged in five series:
The bulk of the land maps and surveys, which are arranged by block number and which are described on the Checklist of Land Maps and Surveys fall in the period from the 1840s to 1911. The bulk of the maps and surveys dated prior to 1892 were executed by James E. Serrell, city surveyor and civil engineer, who was employed by the Street Department of New York City and who also conducted his own private practice as a surveyor and civil engineer. The bulk of the maps and surveys dated between 1892 and 1905 were executed by Henry G. Opdycke and H. Serrell Thomson who were partners in the firm of Opdycke & Thomson, city surveyors and civil engineers. The firm acquired James E. Serrell's original maps, notes and surveys which they utilized in their own professional work. The bulk of the maps and surveys dated after March of 1905 (when the partnership was dissolved) were executed by Henry G. Opdycke. There are also a few maps and surveys (in the later period) executed by William R. Patrick who was also a surveyor and civil engineer.
Filed with the maps and surveys especially in the earlier period (prior to 1892) are a variety of other papers including correspondence, notes, requests for surveys, copies of deeds; copies of court transcripts (involving litigation in which James E. Serrell appeared as an expert witness); assessment lists for street improvements (grading, paving, flagging, setting curbs and gutters), and for the building of sewers; and printed broadsides of auction sales. The correspondence (which includes a few copies of replies by Serrell) relates mainly to requests for maps and surveys from attorneys, landowners, architects, builders, merchants, realtors, and insurance companies.
The maps and surveys executed by James E. Serrell include pen and ink drawings, frequently multicolored, on paper and on linen. Those executed by Opdycke & Thomson, by Henry G. Opdycke and by William R. Patrick are in the form of drafts on tissue paper and final blueprint drawings.
Many of the maps and surveys executed by Serrell are keyed to his field notebooks by an annotation in the form of "B" followed by a number (e. g., "B-30" indicating field notebook #30).
The maps and surveys are for streets, lots, and buildings in the Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. Included are vault surveys, excavation surveys, possession surveys, and architects' surveys.
The papers of William R. Patrick consist of correspondence (1928-63) and miscellaneous papers including surveying notes and memoranda relating to his practice as surveyor and civil engineer. Surveys made by William R. Patrick are filed in Series I. (New York City Land Maps and Surveys) in the following block numbers: #603 (1927), #606 (1930), #1002 (1931), #2677 (1920), #2696+ (1921), #2815+ (1923), #2820 (1923), #2873+ (1930), #2904 (1919), #2978+ (1919), #2989 (1930), #5643 (1929-30).
The Oversized Maps and Papers consist of oversized maps and surveys arranged by block number which have been transferred from Series I; miscellaneous oversized maps and surveys by James E. Serrell, Henry G. Opdycke, and William R. Patrick; oversized broadsides (1848-81) of land auctions held in New York City; and miscellaneous oversized papers.
Included in the miscellaneous oversized papers are maps and surveys made by Henry G. Opdycke for the Automobile Club of America; an engineering drawing made by James E. Serrell depicting an unidentified mechanical device; and clippings and copies of newspapers collected by James E. Serrell. Included are copies of The Daily Graphic, Sept. 25, 1876; the Evening Telegram, Sept. 24, 1876; The New York Herald, Dec. 30, 1870; The Sun, July 9, 1870; and the Sunday Mercury, Apr. 10, 1864.
Shelved separately are maps and engineering drawings by James E. Serrell.
Also shelved separately is an atlas of maps of New York City copied by James E. Serrell from the original maps made by John Randel, Jr. The atlas, which contains 218 leaves of pen and ink drawings of maps embellished with water colors on parchment paper, is entitled: "Atlas of Map of the City of New York North of Houston Street Copied from Surveys by John Randel Jr., Esq. Now on File in the Street Department". The maps cover the area north of Houston Street to 219th Street and 14th Avenue. The names of owners of property appear on their respective lots [giant folio vol. in blue cloth binding].