Detailed 3D model of 1940 San Francisco resurfaces
September 10, 2018 1:25 PM   Subscribe

In 2011, there were brief, tantalizing articles about a model of San Francisco made in the 1940s. The model measured 40x40 feet and had detail down to individual houses, including their shape and color. And then no more was heard about this, until now...

Woody Labounty and David Gallagher from the Western Neighborhoods Project talk to Stella Lochman from the SFMOMA about how the model is coming back as soon as 2019. A model that includes Playland, Sutro Baths, and Fleishhackers playground.

Some background on the Western Neighborhoods project, a project that is "staffed entirely by volunteers, some of whom work out of a second-story office on Geary Blvd. filled with historical photos, posters and other ephemera." Their weekly podcasts cover the rich history of San Francisco landmarks. They also run Open SF History, a photo archive of historic San Francisco.

For those of you in SF, there is a talk about this project at the SFMOMA on Sept. 15.
posted by vacapinta (12 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
... wow.
posted by feckless at 2:14 PM on September 10, 2018

I can see my house!
posted by rtha at 2:53 PM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Neat! Like a little pre-Internet Google Street View.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:56 PM on September 10, 2018

Oh that's awesome that they found a home for it! I can't listen to audio right now; can someone spoil for us where the home for the model will be?

City models are such weird things. Berlin has several of them but the presentation is, honestly, kinda dull. Singapore's city model is an internationally-famous tourist site and anchors a fascinating museum on urban planning. Doubly so since Singapore is both a city and a whole country and a relatively autocratic government.

If you ever want an excuse to visit Sausalito the Bay Model is interesting and unusual. Another Army Corps project, from the mid-50s, it's a hydrological scale model of the SF Bay that was built in part to test whether building a dam across the entire fucking bay was a reasonable thing to do. (No, as it turns out.) It takes up an enormous amount of space, not to mention pumps and water and maintenance. It's cool.
posted by Nelson at 3:05 PM on September 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

One of the sections shown in the tweet in the OP is of the little neighborhood of St. Mary's Park which is southwest of Bernal Heights. The neighborhood streets are laid out in the shape of a bell. There are some aerial views here.
posted by larrybob at 3:29 PM on September 10, 2018

Oh man I can’t wait to get home and get a look at this on my computer- be interesting to see what my neighborhood looked like in 39-40 especially since my house wasn’t built until 46/47.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:44 PM on September 10, 2018

Toronto has a pretty decent city model in the lobby of City Hall. It's worth a look if you're in the area.
posted by ovvl at 4:14 PM on September 10, 2018

The Panorama of the City of New York from the 1964 World's Fair is still there in the old New York City pavilion, which is now the Queens Museum.
posted by Rash at 4:23 PM on September 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

How cool! I feel like I should do a hat tip to Raiders of the Lost Ark's map room.
posted by jadepearl at 5:13 PM on September 10, 2018

Earlier: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps at the Library of Congress

These large scale maps were used to rate houses for fire insurance purposes. They show the house and other building outlines, including porches, with tags and color coding. Pink is brick, yellow is wood. The number of stories are noted. Metal roofs are coded "o", (wood) shingle roofs are "x". Address numbers are shown next to the street outline.

The map books have a cover page, then small scale mapped index pages, then each detailed map page. Each house might be as big as a joint of your index finger.

Local libraries often have the original books, and some universities have collections online.

Here's an example page, from Dayton Ohio in 1887.
Image 6 link

Within these few blocks, there's small frame row houses, shops and manufacturing businesses, the gaslight company with a round "gasometer" for gas storage, and large bay window mansions with outbuildings.
posted by jjj606 at 5:39 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Building Center in London has updated their model to make it interactive since I last visited to see the proposed designs for the US embassy.

I knew immediately upon seeing it that the Borg cube design was going to win.
posted by Molesome at 4:26 AM on September 11, 2018

Sanborn maps are awesome. San Francisco's public library has ours online for free, just need a library card. The David Rumsey also has some Sanborn maps online that require no login.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on September 11, 2018

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