by Laura Matiz
The Real Deal recently ran an article on this map of New York. The map, from around the turn of the 20th Century, is exquisitely detailed by the illustrator, Josef Klemm. His map is a bird's-eye view of the city before the rise of the skyscrapers. The map is meticulous enough that one can spend hours focusing on the details. Below is a screen grab of Central Park and surroundings.
Maps like these are enjoyable to explore and many such maps are accessible from the expansive David Rumsey Map Collection. Map enthusiasts are likely to be aware of this source, but if you are not, it is worth checking out. The online collection houses over 150,000 maps.
For example, doing a quick search for New York City maps, I found this map from 1926 by Charles Farrow titled, "A Map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan."
Below, I share some highlights. First, the map's medallion has such nice touches, including the warning, "The scale is all askew," which is true. An elevated train circles the medallion's top border and a subway is below ground on the bottom border. The couples from the Roaring Twenties add to a feeling of the Jazz Age. This is the kind of map that could be used as the background for an opening sequence for a movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Another detail is the northwest corner showing the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University. It also shows the infamous S (for Suicide) Curve of the Ninth Avenue El (see photo).
The map's border also caught my attention. The strip of antique cars and pedestrians is energized and active. You can see why the pedestrians need to move out of the way—fast. The whimsical drawing reminds me of the illustrations in old Monopoly sets.
I hope you take some time to look around these two maps and the full Rumsey collection, just make sure you have a few hours.