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Thread: Historic Maps of NYC

  1. #31
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Map geeks will love this new-ish feature from NYPL ...

    Drawing on the Past: Enlivening the Study of Historical Geography at

    by Matt Knutzen, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Map Division
    February 3, 2010

    On behalf of The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, the NYPL’s Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship and our partners EntropyFree LLC, I am proud to announce the launch of

    This new website is a parallel snapshot of all maps currently available on the Digital Gallery as well as a powerful set of tools designed to significantly enhance the way we access and use maps and the cartographic information they contain.

    The first such enhancement is in how historic maps are viewed. The user interface of allows zooming and panning in a way that has come to be expected by users of web maps (Google Maps, Bing Maps etc...)

    The next is georectification, which we are calling here “warping”, a familiar term to GIS professionals and few others. Map “warping” is the process where digital images of maps are stretched, placing the maps themselves into their geographic context, rendered either on the website or with tools such as Google Earth ...

    Much more at the LINK

  2. #32

    Default Cunning, Care and Sheer Luck Save Rare Map

    Cunning, Care and Sheer Luck Save Rare Map

    Jonathan P. Derow, a specialist in restoring documents and artworks on paper, at the Brooklyn Historical Society with the 1770 map of New York City he helped bring back to life.


    Published: January 16, 2011

    It was rolled up among other yellowed maps and prints that came off a delivery truck at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s stately office near the East River. Carolyn Hansen, the society’s map cataloguer, began to gently unfurl the canvas.

    Interactive Feature

    A 240-Year-Old Map Is Reborn

    Brooklyn Historical Society
    The 1770 map before, left, and after its restoration.

    “You could hear it rip,” said Ms. Hansen, 29, still cringing at the memory. She stopped pulling. But enough of the map, browned with age and dry and crisp as a stale chip, was open to reveal a name: Ratzer.

    “We have a Ratzer map,” said James Rossman, chairman of the society, who happened to be in the building that Monday last May. That statement, despite the reverence in its delivery, meant little to the others in the room, but it would soon reverberate in cartography circles and among map scholars.

    The name Ratzer is invoked as something of a Da Vinci of New York cartography, and the map was an early edition of his best-known work: a Bernard Ratzer “Plan of the City of New York” in its 1770 state.

    There were widely believed to be only three copies of this exact map in existence. One of them belonged to King George III and remains in the British Library in London, where it is displayed occasionally. The other two — one legible, the other tanned and dark with shellac — are at the New-York Historical Society on the Upper West Side and remain in storage but for two or three times a year, when they are pulled out for students.

    Restoring this surprise fourth map, aged beyond its 240 years by its destructive shellac coating, became an immediate priority in Brooklyn. Its transformation from literally untouchable to clearly legible and mounted behind glass, to be unveiled at a private party at the society on Wednesday night, involved science, patience and more than a little bit of kitchen-sink cunning, calling to service, at one delicate point, boiling pots of old books used to distill the color of aged paper.

    Not that anyone at the Brooklyn Historical Society knew what it had. The map had been delivered from the society’s warehouse in Connecticut. The society said it had no catalog listing the map or when it had been acquired. It had been shellacked and mounted on linen, with a wooden pole attached at the bottom, presumably to bestow a more artistic air. It had probably hung on a wall somewhere for who knows how long, but in May it was in disastrous shape.

    The map had been cut in long strips to allow it to be rolled up for storage. The strips were so brittle they broke when touched. It took a lot of squinting and bending, breath held in, to discover that it was a Ratzer 1770 — its name perhaps an error, as it was most likely completed in 1769.

    A British Army officer in America, Lieutenant Ratzer was a surveyor and draftsman, and his map was immediately praised as a step forward from those of his predecessors. For his trouble, his name was misspelled on initial versions of his maps, called the “Ratzen plan.”

    The map included a detailed rendering of the island’s slips and shores and streets in Lower Manhattan, the familiar mixing with the long gone. Pearl, Broad, Grand and Prince lay beside Fair and Crown and the “Fresh Water” pond.

    “Manhattan, at least the part shown here, was mapped as precisely as any spot on the Earth at the time,” said Robert T. Augustyn, co-author of ”Manhattan in Maps: 1527-1995” (Rizzoli International Publications, 1997). “There was no more beautiful or revealing a map of New York City ever done.”

    There are notable buildings: “The Powder House,” “The City Hall,” “The Prison,” “The Theatre.” Mr. Ratzer included detailed topography, with hills and woodlands near Kips Bay and Turtle Bay that have disappeared.

    “It’s one of the ways we know about how this place looked before the grid really took hold,” said Matthew A. Knutzen, geospatial librarian in the New York Public Library’s map division.

    The bottom of the map contains a striking illustration of the view of Manhattan as seen from Governors Island, with ships, soldiers, waves and smoke. Brooklyn, or “Brookland,” is a patchwork of farms of different shades, bisected by Flatbush Road.

    A later version known as the second state, published in 1776 and nearly identical to the first except for a tiny line of text from the publisher, is more common. England’s 1770 state was presented to George III and remained in his expansive collection. “Publishers gave him one as soon as it came off the press,” said Peter Michael Barber, head of the cartographic and topographic materials department at the British Library.

    The two 1770 maps at the New-York Historical Society were gifts of its founder, John Pintard, on Jan. 4, 1810, according to its catalog. That would make, barring the existence of other copies unknown to map archivists, this fourth map in Brooklyn the first one discovered in 200 years.

    “It’s incredibly significant,” Mr. Knutzen said. “It’s a needle in a haystack.”

    The provenance of the Brooklyn map is a little murky. On the back of the linen that Ms. Hansen began unrolling last May, the name Pierrepont was clearly legible, from the prominent Brooklyn family. But there was no indication how or when it came to land in the Connecticut warehouse, the society said.

    Fearful of causing more damage, the society called Jonathan P. Derow, a paper conservationist in Park Slope, who came right over. “It was in terrible condition,” Mr. Derow, 44, said. “I suggested it not be rerolled. Every time it was handled, more pieces were broken apart, and the damage was increased.”

    It was too brittle to move to his office, so he made a makeshift plastic tent in the society’s office and inserted a humidifier. The hard paper softened, and Mr. Derow, a conservationist since 1991, carried it away in a mode unthinkable at the time of the map’s creation: a Zipcar.

    He washed the map for four days in an alkaline bath that removed acid and grime, and he cut away the linen backing. He aligned the pieces, using a strong magnifying glass and tweezers, and let the map dry, only to see tiny gaps appear between strips, the result of the paper’s shrinking. He rewet it and started over, but let the pieces overlap slightly. That worked: the map shrank perfectly in place.

    White lines were visible where the map had ripped, the brighter inner fabrics of the paper standing out from the stained surface. Mr. Derow visited Argosy Book Store on the Upper East Side and bought a handful of obscure old books — among them, for example, “The Select Dialogues of Lucian, to Which Is Added, a New Literal Translation in Latin, With Notes in English,” from 1804 — that were printed on cloth paper, like the map, and not wood pulp.

    He performed on them a technique that should chill the blood of any author, wondering where his books will be in 200 years: he baked them in his kitchen stove and boiled them in water. He painted the resulting brackish stew onto the white lines, matching them to the rest of the map.

    Did he ever, perhaps in a rush, consult the map for a meeting in an unfamiliar part of town? “There’s barely anything about Brooklyn on there,” he said.

    He framed the finished product behind plexiglass. The society, which paid a reduced rate of $5,000 for the restoration, plans a public viewing in the future.

    There is no hurry. “It will last for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Mr. Derow said.

  3. #33
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Maps, They Don’t Love You Like I Love You

    Viele's 1865 map of Manhattan superimposed on today's grid, part of the OASIS exhibition

    Mapping the Cityscape
    July 6 – August 27, 2011 at the Center for Architecture

    Manhattan mapped is a city of perfect rectangles with a few drunken diagonals running through it. As a planner, my passion for maps does not fall anywhere on the spectrum of normal; nerdiness aside, Manhattan’s various revisualizations are evocative enough to make even the not-so-map-inclined rethink their conceptualizations of the city.

    Why these maps are crushworthy, after the jump:

    Mapping the Cityscape
    celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Manhattan street grid (aka the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan) by highlighting how maps influence our understanding of the urban environment. This exhibition is just two walls, but the maps displayed show information spanning five hundred years from1609– before Manhattan began to be urbanized by the Dutch– to today.

    Maps have historically been navigational, but digital mapping programs have made infographics that convey information in layers ubiquitous. Computer and smart phone technology made them more publicly accessible and fostered the addition of user-generated input; thus changing how mapping is conceived and used.

    The maps here cover a lot of ground and although the density of the exhibition makes for a bit of a whirlwind tour, almost every map is a memorable highlight.

    The Mannahatta Project maps unbuillt midtown Manhattan.

    The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Mannahatta maps visualize the unbuilt island as it was in 1609, with Manhattan’s hilly topography, the land use by the Lenape tribe, and a hilarious map showing where one might have a higher probability of running into beavers. How practical!

    Environmental Simulation Center imagines New Amsterdam via 3D mapping

    The Environmental Simulation Center has created maps of quite a different tone, using historical maps and vivid imagination to create Virtual New Amsterdam. Here, 3-D maps bring the quaint settlement to life with aptly popomo (post-post-modernist) renderings.

    Moving on or perhaps backward to the pre-popomo, OASIS (Open Accessible Space Information System) at Center for Urban Research, City University of New York, takes a completely different look at the past, showing changes over time in iterations of the city by juxtaposing maps from the 18th and 19th centuries on today’s Manhattan street grid.

    Next is a bright, clean, and familiar transit map. These are Tauranac maps, as in John Tauranac, the native Manhattanite who designed the iconic 1979 subway map we still use over thirty years later. Also shown is his much more recent Manhattan Block by Block project (first created in 2000 and updated many times since), a street by street atlas of Manhattan. Utterly droolworthy. Seriously. Few things are more satisfying to look at and absorb than a well-designed map.

    Tauranac's iconic 1979 NYC subway map.

    Which bring us to the spectacular maps of the Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at Columbia University. This work is enough to bring any data visualization fetishist’s infatuation to a new level. While SIDL includes newer work mapping 311 complaints as a portion of the exhibition, the thought-provoking standout of the show is the Million Dollar Blocks (2005) project. These eye-catching red and black maps highlight blocks in Manhattan (and all of New York City) where the state spends more than a million dollars per year is spent its incarcerate residents. The purpose of the project is to draw attention to how much money is spent on incarceration, and the geographies (overwhelming low-income, majority people of color communities) most affected.

    A block detail from a Million Dollar Blocks Map.

    Because of the brutal reality it portrays, Million Dollar Blocks is the most obviously provocative image in this tiny, powerful exhibition. But all tell an urban story only illustratable by maps.

  4. #34
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    From The Minerals Of New York City

    Map and geologic sections of Manhattan Island from Cozzens (1843) illustrating the topography of Manhattan.

    Map of northern Manhattan Island by Colton (1836) showing the old marble quarry near Spuyten Duyvil Creek and
    another quarry across the creek in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

  5. #35
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Here's a fantastic place to lose a few hours of work ...

    Bridges’ survey of Manhattan, NYC (1807)

    Zoomable map with great detail of Manhattan as it was way back when.

  6. #36
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Five Historic Maps Of Manhattan's Morphing Borders

    by Jessica Dailey

    Earlier this week, Ephemeral New York posted an image of the first known map of Manhattan, the 1660 Castello Plan. It shows a charming little settlement with canals along Broad Street and a real 12-foot-tall wall at Wall Street, and it inspired Gizmodo to dig up other historic maps. They mashed them together into a cool GIF that shows Manhattan's ever-expanding border, and we picked out five of our favorites. The colored map above dates to 1770, when most of Manhattan was covered with farms. Across the river, Greenpoint, Brooklyn was mostly forests and meadows.

    1814: The Great American Grid explores this 1814 map created by William Bridges, and they highlight the area around 34th and Fifth Avenue: "At the time this map was originally drawn, that area of town was inhabited mostly by squatters, pigs, trees, and hills. The city commissioners had no idea the Empire State Building—let alone elevators, steel, or a city population of 7 million—was just over 100 years away." Click through for a huge 12,000-pixel wide image of the map.

    1836: One of the more interesting maps, this image shows a stark contrast between the north and south. The southern tip is developed and the street grid is starting to creep higher, while the northern end is still very rural. Gizmodo writes, "The city began selling 'water lots' along the shore, where daring entrepreneurs could create their own plots. Sometimes, engineers would sink entire ships to create a solid foundation for landfill."

    1900: At the start of the 20th century, Manhattan's borders had expanded nearly 1,000 feet on each side. By 1904, dozens of streetcar lines criss-crossed the city, and

    Early 1960s: This map is undated, but a Gizmodo commenter says that it's likely from the early 1960s, for a few reasons. The Hudson Terminal, which closed in 1971, is still marked on the map, as is Radio Row, which was a thing until 1964 until the electronics businesses were relocated to make way for the World Trade Center superblock. Also, Roosevelt Island is labeled as Welfare Island, the name it had name until 1973.

    Watch Manhattan's Boundaries Expand Over 250 Years [Gizmodo]

  7. #37
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The last fantastic map, Norman's Simplified Maps of New York City, is from 1945:

    Super Duper Extra Large Image:

    Super Duper Extra Large Image of the reverse, showing Mid-Town (with details of many buildings):[1945].back.jpg

    All maps Copyright Norman Garbush

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	1945_Map_Normans_Manhattan.jpg 
Views:	396 
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ID:	17318

  8. #38
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Comparing 1776's Tiny Slice Of Manhattan To Today's City

    January 6, 2014, by Hana R. Alberts

    Atlantic Cities played around with the University of Richmond's newly digitized historical atlas database. One of the coolest resources is the stockpile of historical maps that overlay modern-day ones, which the archive has available for Boston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and more as well as NYC. The scope of 1776 New York was tiny compared with today's—but the more you zoom in, the more you can see that the basic grid (even the green lung that is City Hall Park) has remained largely the same for more than two centuries.

    Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States [University of Richmond]
    The Quaint Plans for American Cities, as We Envisioned Them 200 Years Ago [Atlantic Cities]

  9. #39

  10. #40
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Very interesting. Didn't even know it existed!

    The Life and Death of New York's Shortest Avenue

    April 15, 2015, by Hannah Frishberg

    Detail of an 1885 map showing 13th Avenue, via NYPL

    Unlucky, unknown, and itty-bitty, 13th Avenue is Manhattan's shortest numbered avenue, but when it was created by the city in 1837, it wasn't intended to be a stunted addition to the street grid. Built—and then destroyed—by order of the city, the avenue exists today as just a single block on the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District, between Little West 12th Street and Bloomfield Street, just west of 11th Avenue, but far away from 12th Avenue. In its heyday in the mid-1800s, 13th Avenue encompassed nearly 15 blocks, extending from West 11th Street to 25th Street, and according to Gotham Unbound author Theodore Steinberg, the city originally planned for avenue to stretch all the way to 135th Street, built with dirt excavating from upper Manhattan's hills. But 13th Avenue never made it out of Chelsea.

    13th Avenue today, as seen from Pier 54, photo by Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons

    The thoroughfare's intriguing rise and fall has been recounted by a few outlets, but today's tourists won't find much if they go searching for Manhattan's lost avenue. It's a single block across the West Side Highway, unmarked, but officially known as Gansevoort Peninsula. A battered Department of Sanitation building, a parking lot for garbage trucks, and a bereaved little wood-plank pier are all that remain of this strip of waterfront.

    1860 map showing the bulkhead line and 13th Avenue, via NYPL

    Thirteenth Avenue's 1837 birth followed a law enacted by New York State to "establish a permanent exterior street in the city of New-York along the easterly shore of the North, or Hudson's River," according to author and New York City expert James Nevius. The legislation granted developers the ability to purchase underwater lots along the Hudson and use trash and landfill to expand mainland Manhattan into the water through the construction of piers and docks. The government controls the bulkhead line (the designated off-land shoreline restricting how far dry land can be extended), and with this legal blessing, private investors went wild buying and selling lots to broaden Manhattan.

    1902 map of 13th Avenue, via NYPL

    Development occurred in a haphazard way, but by 1874, the city decided to pave the avenue with Belgian block. The booming businesses that popped up on the new street were mostly lumber yards, saloons, and dumps. In true New York Times fashion, the paper sent a few reporters to the explore this new neighborhood in the 1880s, and found the area to be a sooty alleyway, unpaved, and impoverished. An 1886 Times story quoted in this blog post found that poor Italian immigrants and lumberman were among the few who frequented the area, following a "winding foot path showing the course pedestrians take to dodge the deeper mud holes."

    1899 photo of a cold storage warehouse on 13th Avenue, via MCNY

    An 1883 Times article describes quite a trip walking up 13th Avenue from West 11th Street to West 26th Street, where a tall board fence randomly demarcated the avenue's end. The southern end of the avenue was "a dreary waste," but moving north, wanderers were rewarded with "glimpses of the surrounding country" that suggested "a mountain ravine." Near 23rd Street things got a little more lively as 13th Avenue passed the the Pavonia Ferry house.

    At night, the Times described the place as a seedy, unsafe place that even the police avoided. A known hangout for 19th-century hoodlums, bars in the area were notorious for brawls, cockfights, and fires, which damaged several large businesses, like the New York Drying Company, the Electric Candle Company, Empire Print Works, as well as a grain elevator. Further south, the West Washington Market opened in 1889 as a wholesale facility for farmers.

    But 13th Avenue's eccentric life was cut short, quite literally, around the turn of the century when New York needed to upgrade its piers to accommodate larger steam liners like the Lusitania and the Titanic. Thirteenth Avenues's docks were not nearly big enough, so the city condemned the land they created and began removing landfill south of 22nd Street to build Chelsea Piers.

    North of 22nd Street, however, 13th Avenue remained for a few more decades; the New York Public Library's collection holds dozens of maps and photographs of 13th Avenue from the 1910s to 1930s (and it's mentioned in city records), but this chunk eventually became part of 12th Avenue.

    West Washington Market in 1929, via NYPL

    The one section that the city could not condemn below 22nd Street was West Washington Market, so it remained as the Gansevoort Peninsula. Eventually, the market closed and today, the one-block-long piece of land holds facilities for the sanitation department.

    13th Avenue on Google Maps

    While currently lowly, the future of 13th Avenue is bright. The Hudson River Park Trust has proposed turning the single remaining block, as well as Pier 52 and 53, into a "rocky shoreline." The entirety of 13th Avenue is currently operated by the NYC Sanitation Department with no public access (Pier 53 houses the NYC Fire Department's Marine Company One, a functioning fireboat house and pier), but the Trust would have the Sanitation facilities relocated and replaced with a "play lawn" and recreational boating areas. If it's ever accomplished, this tiny piece of Manhattan would have truly seen it all.

    Thirteenth Avenue [Inside the Apple]
    The Forgotten 13th Avenue That New York City Built and Then Destroyed [Gizmodo]
    Thirteenth Avenue [Blogspot]
    Whatever happened to Manhattan's 13th Avenue? [Ephemeral NY]

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