1836 Manhattan vs today's Manhattan
September 7, 2013 4:09 PM   Subscribe

An interactive map from Smithsonian.com lets you compare a map of 1836 Manhattan drawn by celebrated mapmaker Joseph Colton (mentioned previously) with an aerial view of the city today.
posted by ricochet biscuit (11 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
This is pretty rad and makes me wish I lived somewhere more populous- there's a locally-famous map of my town from around its founding in the 1850s, it's a popular poster for homes and businesses. I rented the downstairs of a house that was once a parlor/inn for men who arrived to work at the barbed wire factory- it was kind of a thrill to see it drawn on the map, just where it should be, albeit without the early 20th century homes crowding around it.
posted by maus at 4:24 PM on September 7, 2013

I found it interesting to see the bits of land that have been added around the perimeter of Manhattan by landfill. In southern Louisiana the situation is opposite, and I used to have a circa 1850 map of Louisiana; it is simply astonishing how much land isn't there any more, including places where there used to be named towns now 20 miles offshore.

Also it's interesting to see how many streets are in the same place today, yet in the historic map you can't find the outline of what is now Central Park at all.
posted by localroger at 4:33 PM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of an interesting tract on the grid, titled same by Hannah Higgins.

Although the topography has changed, Manhattan and Brooklyn's layout is utterly predictable, even in 1836. I can't remember Higgin's thesis but insofar as I understand it, the grid was the tool that made self-powered expansion possible. Living in the Southwest, the form is both oppressive and impressive. How else do you get past the absurdity of making people live close together for economic reasons in a landscape that seems endless as well as completely surmountable with the automobile?
posted by anewnadir at 4:35 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know Castle Clinton from Deus Ex. That's about all I know.
posted by symbioid at 4:37 PM on September 7, 2013

So Here is what my copy of the 1865 version of Map of New York and Adjacent Cities looks like. Mine was clearly pulled from a book which is kind of a shame.

Comparing it with the 1836 version. You can already see changes around The Battery.

It is also kind of surreal that things mentioned in Moby Dick, like Coenties Slip are still there in one form or another.

I'm just old enough to vaguely remember when the bits to the west of the WTC was still barren. Until they started on the world financial center all that was there was a high fence, lights in the distance and acres of landfill.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:44 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

It was interesting to me to pop over to Jersey City and see where the building I lived in for a few years in the mid 2000s would be located 50 years after that map was made. Great find!
posted by immlass at 5:01 PM on September 7, 2013

Came for Angostura vs Bokers, am disappoint.

Actually, no, this is pretty wicked.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:25 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a shame they tore down that nice frilly border wall with New Jersey.
posted by planetesimal at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also it's interesting to see how many streets are in the same place today, yet in the historic map you can't find the outline of what is now Central Park at all.

It's also completely useless at showing you where the subway stops were!

immlass: Me too (1980s, Jersey Ave.). Except that the overlay is significantly less accurate in Jersey. I blame Jersey.
posted by dhartung at 1:25 AM on September 8, 2013

Also worth looking at: this is part of a series that includes Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, and DC.
posted by mcoo at 7:20 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's amazing to think that at roughly the same time as this New York City map, downtown Chicago looked like this.
posted by Sreiny at 7:49 AM on September 8, 2013

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