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The body of the city
September 2, 2008 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Visualizing Early Washington. A project at the Imaging Research Center of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County has reconstructed the original landscape of Washington DC before its radical transformation into a modern capital city.

Be sure to view the animation either embedded in the WaPo story or (sans advertising) at the "reconstructed the original landscape" link. (via)
posted by Horace Rumpole (21 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was fascinating. Thanks.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:41 AM on September 2, 2008


This is wonderful stuff. I'm ashamed to say I never knew how wide the Potomac was originally. Thanks for showing me a new perspective on my town.
posted by Fenriss at 10:41 AM on September 2, 2008


I was about to marvel that the river moved so much in just Jefferson's own lifetime, but I guess the J Memorial could have been built much later.

1943!?! Whoa.
posted by DU at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2008


My daily commute takes place entirely within the area delineated by L'Enfant's original plan, so I find stuff like this fascinating.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2008


Metafilter again delivered my daily dose of awesome...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:03 AM on September 2, 2008


This is great, thanks!
posted by Mick at 11:22 AM on September 2, 2008


I currently live in another of the 19th century's planned cities, and my friends at the historical society are doing similar work, and it always amazes me to see what's underneath that perfect imposed Cartesian grid.

Very cool method of visualizing this, thanks!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:40 AM on September 2, 2008


Thats awesome. I worked on the virtualization of The Cone Sisters apartments at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Everytime I look at that video I say to myself..."that damn dining room chair..."

Also Dan Bailey (who is doing the v/o in that linked video) is one REALLY cool guy. I took my all time fav class from him, History Of Animation. Nothing like getting credit hours for watching Bugs Bunny.
posted by ShawnString at 11:43 AM on September 2, 2008


I got to race around the UMBC ITE building (right after it was built) in an abandoned office chair. Pretty swanky. I'm glad they did something neat with it.

Full Disclosure: As the story goes, the UMBC Fine Arts building was designed by an insane prison architect, with staircases built to prevent riots. Whenever we humanities majors complained (we're good whiners), they would build a brand new science/tech building on the campus just to rub in our career unprofitability. Being the last built before I left, the ITE building is laid on the foundations of my misery and powered by my hate. See you in hell, fuckers!
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2008


Neato. It's interesting that the location for the Jefferson Memorial was originally in the middle of the Potomac, since recently, they've had to close off a sidewalk path that skirts the Tidal Basin near the monument because the Tidal Basin seems to want to take it back, and floods.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2008


I filed a bug - P1 Blocker: "I can't see the Giant Masonic Pentagram."
posted by freebird at 11:49 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was really cool. I wonder if they will do a public speaking show at UMBC.
posted by parmanparman at 12:28 PM on September 2, 2008


Very cool. I love this sort of stuff. On a very basic, entirely map based level, my boyfriend helped me put together a part of a project I did on Oakland's watershed by layering old maps we found. It's definitely more basic, but the intent was to be able to show development, creek culverting and lake and harbor fill. It's also interesting to note freeway placement; as in many cities, they were run smack through the middle of vibrant African American and Portuguese communities, now fractured by concrete monoliths.

(Sorry for the derail, but I really enjoy this type of historical digging and reconstruction.) Thanks for the post.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:50 PM on September 2, 2008


This is great.
posted by WPW at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2008


Cowbellemoo...i did really love those window seats. but yea, who ever designed that building was nuts.
posted by ShawnString at 1:09 PM on September 2, 2008


This is really neat. It also reminded me of A Short History of America by R. Crumb
posted by KokuRyu at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I absolutely love this. And while I have some attachment to Washington, having spent some crucial childhood years there (becoming a Senators fan in the process and learning to accept endless losses with a modicum of grace), I want very much to see this for other cities: New York, Paris, Prague, Moscow...

One especially enticing possibility involves using the latest and best video game software to walk the viewer through the streets of various historical iterations of Washington, the virtual "camera" positioned five feet above the ground to mimic the experience of a person living in the federal city.

DO THIS. DO IT NOW.
posted by languagehat at 1:32 PM on September 2, 2008


I've always thought it would be great to be able to walk through historical locations, like the 1939 New York World's Fair, or Luna Park on Coney Island in 1903, or the great Chicago World's Colombian Exposition of 1893.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:43 PM on September 2, 2008


One especially enticing possibility involves using the latest and best video game software to walk the viewer through the streets of various historical iterations of Washington, the virtual "camera" positioned five feet above the ground to mimic the experience of a person living in the federal city.

You used to be able to do this in the fascinating Virtual Saint Louis project, but that feature seems to be down right now. They had some neat features--you walked around in your chosen decade of Saint Louis history, it was kind of like the second generation of Castle Wolfenstein. Sometimes you saw an icon like a photographer and if you clicked on it you got an overlay of a historic photo within the virtual world, it really worked pretty well. You could also go into a few of the buildings and browse historic documents related to the building and era.
posted by LarryC at 10:47 PM on September 2, 2008


This is why I love the internet and technology. Don't have a complete "real" picture? We can generate one that is pretty damn close!
posted by wavering at 12:01 PM on September 3, 2008


I live just a short distance away from D.C. and this, by far, the coolest thing I've seen in a long, long time and is worth keeping an eye on.
posted by Man with Lantern at 11:46 AM on September 18, 2008


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