Vintage Map of New York City (1909) – Examining and Exploring

new york city 1909 mapVintage Birds-eye Map of New York City (1909)

Today we’re going to take a look at one of our New York City Maps that’s in our historical collections that was produced in 1909. The map is displayed in a birds-eye 3d perspective in that we get to see building architecture, changes in landscape, bridges, parks and much more that is presented as if we were flying in a hot air balloon.

new york city 1909 map landmarksThere are several characteristics that I love about this vintage map of New York City. First of all it displays the various important landmarks throughout the metropolitan area. For example the Statue of Liberty is drawn with the labeling “Bedloe’s Island”. What’s interesting about this aspect of the map is that “Bedloe’s Island” on todays maps of New York City doesn’t exist. Instead the Statue of Liberty currently lies on Liberty Island. This is because “Bedloe’s Island” was renamed to “Liberty Island” as an act of congress in 1956. This gives us historical context that largely authenticates the observed publication date of 1909. Directly to the west of the Statue of Liberty lies Ellis Island. It is faintly drawn on the cartograph, for which about half of the island is actually visible. To the southeast of the Statue of Liberty lies Governors Island in which Fort Columbus and William Castle is labeled. If we look to the north east of Governors Island we see two of the great suspension bridges of New York City. Drawn and labeled are the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges crossing over the East River. I really love the amount of detail that exists with these various historical landmarks of NYC. This is just one of the many special aspects of this vintage cartograph.

new york city 1909 map hudson river transit lines

Another characteristic of this map that I believe cannot be overlooked is that the transit lines and tunnels of New York City are labeled throughout. For example if you look long the Hudson river side of lower Manhattan you see that the Pennsylvania Railroad route is labeled, the Erie Railroad, the Hudson Manhattan Tunnel and various ferry lines that travel back and forth across the Hudson River.

new york city 1909 map east river transit linesOn the East River though there are only a few transit lines labeled as you can see the Interborough tunnel labeled, as well as the Belmont Tunnel, and Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels. Tunnels and ferry lines as we can see on the map are more predominate on the Hudson River vs. The East River. What interesting about this aspect is that the Hudson River is much wider then the East River. The Cost and resources needed for building a bridge across the East River must have been significantly less then a proposed plan for building a bridge over the Hudson. A very interesting thought and explanation to the reasons that bridges only existed on the western side of Manhattan.

new york city 1909 map transit line comparisonI really love birds-eye perspective maps because they give the viewer and idea of the historical growth of a city. It also presents the vertical growth of skyscrapers as well as the formation of various neighborhoods and boroughs. Generally on this map though, we vague drawn buildings throughout. We see mediocre boxes with dots that symbolize windows. Building architecture though is detailed more specifically as we get into highly condensed areas of New York City.  For example in lower Manhattan, right next to Battery Park, we see a few skyscrapers detailed with individual characteristics in terms of shape. If we look to the western side of the Hudson River, we see piers and docks drawn with specific details as well. Also various parts of Brooklyn have architecturally detailed buildings throughout. Ultimately what this tells me is that the map was meant not for close inspection of the general areas, but more pulled back approach that gives a worldly view perspective. The map wants you to see the magnificence and growth of the City of New York. That is why I believe birds-eye perspective maps are so special and unlike the overhead 2-D street view maps.

Check out our musical preview of this vintage map from 1909:

Also we have this vintage map of New York City available on a fully customizable poster print from our online shop. Click the image and link below to take a closer look!


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