Maps News Tips World

Discovering A City’s History Through Illustrated Maps

November 21, 2019

One of the marvelous things about old illustrated maps is how it tells the story on how a city has changed over the years. While the bird’s eye view map has its limits and omissions, it helps in finding a place and encourages others to do the same. The illustrated map is a reference with so much meaning from its quaint illustrations.

Tourism ads inform newcomers in Mile High City about beer, hiking and skiing; however, it will not inform a visitor about the history of the endless newly built apartment buildings. The tourism commercials do not tell what exactly preceded the riverfront redevelopment zone and many other new landmarks.

If you will do a deep Google search, it is very likely that you will find a perspective map of the city of Denver, Colorado, 1889, hosted by the Library of Congress. The illustrated map in pictorial format was a popular marketing tool in the 19th century for boomtowns like Denver.

The illustrated was able to capture a sweeping bird’s eye view of the early city. The pictorial map was distorted and most probably embellished to impress newcomers to the modern city. However, if you will look closely at the rendition of South Platte River, you will find out that the details sync with real life, block by block.

On the same spot as Stoner Hill was a castle. Further research will tell you that it was the Castle of Culture & Commerce. The pictorial map was able to capture details and personality that cannot be found in traditional maps.

A series of map-crops and observations that could bait the curious was published with a headline “Find your neighborhood on the Google Maps of 1889.” As the post was shared by Facebook groups to neighborhood associations, people started to find their homes in the map. They also spotted the oddities because the illustrated map was probably drawn for aesthetics.

Part of the appeal of illustrated maps is its ability to tell a story on how a certain place has transformed. While pictorial maps are popularly used for tourism promotions, the details tell people on what structures have survived and what didn’t.