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Nerd Out With 19th-Century New York City Maps and More

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Earlier this week the United States Geological Survey, the agency responsible for charting the nation's topographic ups and downs, unveiled a new online tool that allows users to pull up maps through the ages for different geographic locations and layer them for a neat compare-and-contrast effect (h/t City Lab). The easy-to-use feature makes it easy to search for locations, click on a point, and see what maps are available for the area. Then, it's possible to overlay them and adjust the transparencies to see change over time, especially when it comes to urbanization and the slow takeover of New York's outer-borough open space by development and transit systems. You can also download the full-size files of the old maps, for the purposes of, say, desktop backgrounds and wall-sized murals and the like.

First, pick a point. The red cross marks a spot in Brooklyn, and then the toolbar at the bottom contains the different maps available for that spot throughout history.

Below, Brooklyn in 1897.

Below, Brooklyn in 1967, left, and 1897, right. Zoomed in to show the border between the maps.

Then, adjust the transparency on the older map to the right to see what has changed between then and now, as they overlay each other.

Moving on up to upper Manhattan, this is a map of Harlem in 1897.

Here's a 1966 map labeled Central Park, but its reach clearly extends to upper Manhattan, the Bronx, northern Queens, and even part of New Jersey.

Compare the 1897 map, to the right, with a 1966 map, to the left.

Happy exploring!
USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer [official]
· Track a Century of U.S. Development With a Tool That Centralizes Old Maps [City Lab]
· Peel NYC's Layers of History With Google Street View Tools [Curbed]
· Cool Map Thing archive [Curbed]