A Map of the Former Town of Kensico, NY
This is the map that got me into map making. In January 2000, I Googled the Town of Kensico, NY, a town that hasn't existed since 1915. I was surprised to see Google return a large number of links and it got me reading up on the former town. Kensico, NY was a small town about an hour North of New York City. It was purchased by the city and leveled to make room for a reservoir for the city's rapidly growing water needs. My Internet research eventually led me to a 19th century tax map of the town. As a boy I grew up just a couple of miles from the reservoir. There were local legends about the town including one untrue) that said that the steeple of the town's church would stick up out of the water when the reservoir was low. Although I had known about the town's existence, I never knew exactly where the town was. When I found the tax map, I used Photoshop to overlayed the tax map on top of a current Yahoo map of the reservoir and figured out where the town was. I then got a USGS topo map of the reservoir and the hills that surround it and used that to created a new digital map that shows the town and how its roads connected to today's roads outside the reservoir. I have a version in Adobe Illusrator with layers for the town and the reservoir. It enables me to dial the transparency up and down revealing or hiding the town.
My Kensico map partially inspired my Silk Road map. Both are places that no longer exist in the real world but live on vibrantly on the Internet.
The Five Points
This area of lower Manhattan, also known as Paradise Square, was notorious in it's day and made famous more recently as the setting for Martin Scorcese's, 'Gangs of New York' and the BBC's mini-series, ‘Copper’. The map is rendered in three layers with the oldest being the pale blue of the Collect Pond, the red representing the Five Points neighborhood as it looked in the 1840’s, and the yellow representing the street grid of today.
The area that became ‘The Five Points' was originally a spring-fed, fresh water source known as the Collect Pond. It shows up clearly on a British maps of Manhattan around the time of the American Revolution. The pond was a key source of drinking water in colonial-era New York.
As lower Manhattan grew, breweries and tanneries set up shop near the pond. This included Coulter’s Brewery, built in 1792. Coulter’s building would eventually become known as “The Old Brewery,” perhaps the Five Point’s most infamous tenement. The breweries and tanneries no doubt benefitted greatly from their proximity to the Collect Pond’s fresh water but it was not a mutually beneficial relationship. Over time, the pond had become quite polluted and smelly and the city made plans to fill it in. The Canal that gave Canal Street it’s name was built, in part, to drain the Collect and it’s surrounding marsh. The City backfilled the collect with garbage and debris around 1811 and began allowing buildings to be erected. The pond however had been poorly filled and was still being fed by the underground spring. The area remained wet, muddy and mosquito infested. As a consequence of this, anyone that could move out of the area did. In the 1830s, more and more tenements were built on the soggy ground and began to settle and lean almost as soon as they were completed. Little Water Street, which had once been the footpath to Cow Bay was now a dangerous, crime-infested alley. There was a building at the northern end of Little Water Street known as “Jacob’s Ladder” because the front steps were badly rotten, broken and misaligned.
Eventually only the poorest of the poor chose to live in the area known initially as Paradise Square and later as Five Points. This included freed black slaves and a group of immigrants arriving from Europe. The Potato Famine had hit Ireland in the 1840s prompting a huge exodus. As they arrived in New York poor and destitute, many ended up in the Five Points. As many as a thousand may have lived in “The Old Brewery” which had been broken up into tiny, one-room “dwellings”. It was said that there was a murder every night in the brewery for months on end.
The emergence of The Five Points as a crime-ridden slum feels like destiny in action. Had the Potato Famine happened a decade later, the Irish might have ended up in a different neighborhood. If the Collect Pond had not become polluted then drained and backfilled, there would not have been the cheap, undesirable land to build on. Had the buildings not been built on soggy, marshland, they might have been more stable, desirable and able to charge more rent.
With all of the above conditions in place, in came the poor and the crime associated with so many scrambling to scratch out an existence. The area was famous for numerous gangs including the “Dead Rabbits” featured in Scorcese’s movie. The neighborhood had many alleys like “Bottle Alley” and “Bandit’s Roost” that were gang hangouts. Some gang members eventually ended up at “The Tombs” prison after being convicted of a crime. The Tombs was built in 1838 in the Egyptian Revival style in the hopes its ominous appearance would be a natural deterrence against crime. It too was built over the Collect Pond and suffered as a result. The foundation sank and leaked eventually forcing the building to be destroyed. The Tombs was replaced twice with newer buildings. The current nearby detention center is still referred to as The Tombs by some law enforcement officials.
Despite the seedy history of the Five Points, some good did come out of the area. There were a number of dance and music halls in the area. One came to be known as Almack’s Dance Hall. Both the Irish and African Americans living in the area frequented it creating a mix of African and Irish dance traditions. It is said that this combination led to what eventually became what we know now as tap dance.
A Map of Point Reyes and Tomales Bay
Point Reyes and the adjoining Tomales Bay is one of my favorite areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. Point Reyes has great hiking and kayaking Tomales Bay can be beautiful before the wind comes up.
This map has a more traditional look which hides it's unique perspective. I wanted to create a basic map that highlights the major towns and landmarks. The key difference between this map and other maps of the area is the map's orientation. The map is rotated clockwise about 35 degrees. I did this because it is closer to your actual experience of the area. The general orientation of the California coast is North South even though it veers in and out quite a bit. Driving up Highway 1 in the area feels like you're driving North with the Pacific Ocean to your West. As it nears Point Reyes, Highway 1 also follows the San Andreas Fault and the fault is key to what makes Point Reyes unique. Land on the ocean-side of the fault sits on the Pacific tectonic plate while the mainland-side is part of the North American Plate. As the two plates grind past each other, Point Reyes moves North. The land mass moved 16 feet almost instantly in the 1906 Earthquake.
All of this made me want to orient Highway 1 vertically and visualize Point Reyes as a mass of land sticking out into the Pacific. Tomales Bay, Highway 1 and the San Andreas Fault all align vertically to reinforce the image I have in my head when I'm there. It also serves to capture the area as something unique and slightly removed from the surrounding area.
A Map of the Former Town of Monticello, CA
Where Lake Berryessa now stands there once was a fertile valley full of farms, orchards and the small town of Monticello, California. Before Monticello there were the Adobe buildings that were part of the Mexican-owned Rancho de Los Putahs. And before the Spanish arrived, there was the Patwin village of Topaidihi. All of this is now lost below the waters of Lake Berryessa.
Berryessa comes from the Basque family name of the early Spanish settlers of the valley (Berelleza was the likely original spelling).
Berryessa Valley as it came to be known, was first settled by the Patwin and Pomo Indians who lived there for thousands of years. A 1948 archaeological survey of the valley found the remains of approximately 150 Native American villages. They lived easily off the abundant trees, plants, and animals of the valley and surrounding hills. According to ome history, bears roamed the hills and, over time, created trails that were later used by the Berreyesa family to get their cattle up and over the mountains and into the valley.
The first Spanish settler in the valley was Nicolas Antonio Berreyesa who was born in 1761 in Sinaloa Mexico of Spanish parents. He arrived in Northern California as part of the 1776 De Anza Colonization Expedition. In 1779, Nicolas married the daughter of Gabriel Peralta, one of Anza’s soldiers. They had nine children together including, Nasario Antonio who would eventually establish the first ranch in Berryessa Valley.
Two of Nasario's sons, Sisto and Antonia, were in the Mexican Army and based in San Francisco. In 1838 they married the Higuerra twins, Nicholasa and Maria Anatasia and moved up to their father's rancho in the valley a short time later. In 1843, the two sons became the official owners of what came to be known as Rancho de la Putas through a Mexican land grant.
There are several possible origins regarding use of the word Putas in the rancho name. One is that the local Patwin tribes engaged in "licentious behavior" and the river became known as the Rio de los Putos (putah being the word for prostitute in Spanish). Another version says that the name evolved from, "puta wuwwe" (grassy creek), the Miwok name for the creek. In that telling, any similarity to the Spanish "putah" was coincidental. I tend to believe the latter as while they may have used an unflattering name for the Indians and the creek, it seems less likely that they would intentionally name their ranch, Ranch of the Prostitutes.
By 1866, most of the original Berryessa family had died, been killed, or had sold the land to pay off family debts. Most of this seems associated with the transition of California from Mexican to U.S. territory. Knowing the valley's reputation as perhaps the most fertile in the country, developers bought up the land and cut it up into many small plots. A year later, the valley was full of productive farms.
The town of Monticello was established shortly thereafter. A hotel was then built as a stopover point for the stagecoach that ran between Napa and a large mining operation in Knoxville, north of the valley. Monticello was known for it's annual rodeo that had grew out of a tradition at one of the valley ranches.
Although the farms and orchards of the valley thrived, discussions of building a dam and flooding the valley occurred as early as 1906. It became official in 1954 under President Eisenhower and construction started the same year. The residents of the town and valley tried to fight the movement but were unsuccessful. Life Magazine sent Dorothea Lange to document their plight but never published the photos or story. The town was bought up and leveled. The town cemetery was dug up and moved to Spanish Flat in the hills just West of the lake. There is also a small museum in Spanish Flat that was created by surviving family members with a number if photos and artifacts from Monticello.
In one of the historical accounts I read, a local farmer was quoted as saying, "they took our land away like we were Indians." I'm not sure he was aware of the irony of his statement. Perhaps if the bears could talk, they would complain of their loss of habitat. The Indians have surely complained with rarely anyone willing to listen. History describes the Berryessa family as doing themselves in through gambling debts and the like but i doubt it was that simple. With the land changing from Mexican to American hands there were bound to be conflicts and new claims of dominion. Alas, not even the white man's land is safe in the evolving landscape now seemingly a picturesque, tranquil lake.
A Map of the Stanford Linear Accelerator
I've always been fascinated that I-280 in Palo Alto goes over the top of a particle accelerator. It's not everyday that you can drive over the top of a Nobel Prize winning Physics Lab. I also find the curve of the highway against the accelerator's "straightest building on Earth" geometry interesting so I decided to make this map. As I was looking at the satellite images, I was intrigued by the chaos of buildings at the terminus (right side) of the accelerator. They almost look like they were the victim of a series of particle collisions themselves.
Six Google Maps from the Sixties
This idea was buzzing around my head for a while before I assembled it. Even though Google Maps has been around for less than a decade it is now seen as "the source" for so much information that we almost expect that it would have been around in the 60s. The colors of Google Maps are so ubiquitous across the World that the palette starts to feel like pop art to me. Like something Andy Warhol would have painted had Google been around then. I wanted to include a map of the bus route that Rosa Parks took when she refused to give up her seat. But Rosa Park's famous bus ride, a truly pioneering event that helped kicked off the civil rights movement happened in 1955. I compared my list with some other histories of the 1960s. There are other events that come up, like Neil Armstrong landing on the Moon and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The the six I went with are all nicely represented by close-up street maps. Plus I like the sound of "Six Google Maps from the Sixties". The events that took place in these 6 locations are (starting from the top left),
Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a Dream Speech" on the mall in Washington DC, August 28, 1963
John F Kennedy's Assassination as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza and the School Book Depository in Dallas TX. November 22, 1963
The civil rights march from Selma Alabama to Montgomery Alabama... better known as "Bloody Sunday" March 7, 1965
Martin Luther King Jr's Assassination on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee, April 4, 1968
Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, the place where Teddy Kennedy accidentally drove his car off the bridge and into the channel killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne and, according to many, dashing his chance to become President. July 18, 1969
Ending on a high note, Max Yasgur's farm was the site of Woodstock... "3 days of Peace, Love, & Music" August 15-18 1969
I made this map after as a record of our week in the Galapagos Islands aboard the Nemo III catamaran. It was an amazing trip in an amazing place so I started thinking about making a map while I was still on the trip.
The Proehl Projection World Map
D3js.org is an awesome, open source resource for data visualizations. A blog post by the D3 Team about their amazing map projections software included the ability to create your own custom map projection. So after trying a bunch, I settled on this one. It is inspired, in part by Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map. That map tries to show the Earth’s land mass as one giant island surrounded by a single ocean. This projection does much the same at the expense of having the South Pole split in half on the lower left and right corners. The Proehl Projection (a play on "Polar Projection”) is based on the D3 software but styled by me. Make your own projection here.
A Map of the Sutter Buttes in California's Central Valley
I first caught sight of the Sutter Buttes as I was driving back home from a weekend at Camp Okizu where my wife and I volunteer. We were coming down out of the Sierras east of Oroville when we saw them. They are a striking sight and have earned their nickname as "The Shortest Mountain Range in the World".
From a distance, they look like a razor-back linear ridge of mountains in the middle of nowhere. So I was surprised to see that they actually have quite a circular footprint. They are surrounded on all sizes for many miles by the completely flat farm land of California's Central Valley. This is what I wanted to capture in the map, rippled foothills and rough crags surrounded by the perfectly straight North-South, East-West roads that result when there is little to get in their way.
The land is mostly private ranch land but there have been talks to turn them into a State Park if the proper deals can be negotiated. The buttes were sacred to the indian tribes that once occupied the area and figure prominently into their creation myths. Their name for the buttes translates roughly into "Middle Mountain". I have yet to hike the buttes but organized hike are offered on a regular basis by several local non-profits including the Middle Mountain Foundation.
A Map of our Trek on Mt Kilimanjaro
This map is another trip / journey map. In June of 2007, my wife and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with 12 other people. It was a major undertaking and accomplishment for us so when we got back, I immediately started on a map. There are 3 or 4 major routes up the mountain so I wanted to understand our route relative to the others. People often ask me what map did I use as a base map. I have scans of all of my base maps and my finished maps usually bare little resemblance to my source maps. For my Kilimanjaro Map, I relied on a very cheap and poor tourist map that I bought at a hotel gift shop, some aerial photographs and a few map details that I found on the Internet. The trickiest part was figuring out how to render the mountain which is really a large cinder cone sitting on top of a giant volcanic dome. The dome appears quite smooth and regular from a distance so after several attempts at rendering more detail, I settled on some very simple blends and shading. I realized I could use the same technique to create an elevation view of the mountain so I added that in which gives a better sense of the scale of the mountain. In addition to the summit peak itself, there were two other major geographic features along our journey, Cathedral Spires and Mwenzi Peak. Seeing them in both the map and the elevation makes it easier to understand the various summit routes. There were also key landmarks on our journey so capturing them on the map was key. The map documents not just our route but dates and campsites as well as a few minor details such as the route taken by one of our climbers who got sick and had to hike out on Day 4. The cartouche contains a slightly personalized description of the mountain in the fine type. I also created a decorative border for this map based on a traditional African pattern... something I might try more of in future maps.