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Views: Portraying Place and Space 2nd Exhibit from the David Rumsey Map Center, January 22 - August 31, 2017

The Built Environment

The Built Environment

Cartographers have been depicting the built environment for hundreds of years. The built environment, starting with towns, present numerous challenges not the least of which is how to convey massive amounts of information in an understandable way. Over time, three types of plan were created to address this need: the profile, the bird’s-eye view, and the planimetric plan. All three of these types of depictions are shown in the monumental work by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Braun and Hogenberg’s Aden, Mombaza, Quiloa, Cefala (shown in this case) uses the profile view – a view of the place as if you were approaching it from the ground. This type of plan anchors the viewer to the space overall. While the street grid is hidden, major monuments and buildings are highlighted as are the fortifications around the city.

The bird’s-eye view, as seen in the maps of New York and Kyoto, show the area on the oblique as if from an aerial view. Note that in the bird’s-eye view the street grid is shown. Major attractions, buildings, and monuments are often readily identifiable with the streets, waterways, and harbors often bustling with activity. Planimetric plans show the built environment from straight overhead. An example of this type of view may be seen in the Natural Environment case with the views of the National Parks by John H. Renshawe.

County atlases, shown in the case below, have a special place in America’s cartographic history. These atlases were produced almost entirely by private enterprises. They are unique in showing the ownership of every land parcel in rural parts of a county. Planimetric view of the towns were included as well as natural features such as rivers and hills. Man-made features were included such as railways, roads, schools, and administrative boundaries. Drawings of the important buildings of a town, individual houses, and farms were included for a fee paid by the subscriber to the publication. Taken as a whole, these provide a detailed snapshot of much of the United States from about 1814 to the Great Depression with the “golden age” spanning the period from 1850 to 1880.


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New York, Josef Klemm, 1908

Austrian painter and lithographer, Josef Klemm, created this bird’s-eye view of New York most likely in 1908. The view has no date, but contains interesting clues as to when it was done. The Singer Building is present and was completed in 1908. The MetLife Tower, however, is missing. It was completed in 1909.


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Bird’s-eye-view Kyoto and its environs, Hoei, 1947

The Kyoto Tourist Bureau and Guide Office published this map for use by local and foreign tourists. The title and the text are in both English and Japanese. The city is shown surrounded by the Katsura and Kamo rivers with the seven entrances clearly shown. Numerous temples, the Imperial Palace, and lovely gardens entice visitors to explore this ancient city.


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Helgoland, Vogelschau, Anonymous, 1890

Helgoland is a small island off the northwest coast of Germany. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times and with a current population of about 1,000 people. This view was created in 1890, the year that the British gave up the islands to Germany in the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty. The red sedimentary rock cliffs are unusual for this area. No other such formation exist along the continental coast of the North Sea.


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Panoramic view of Tampa, Florida, Anonymous, 1915

Tampa was a sleepy town in the 1880’s. By the early 1900’s the city had grown to over 30,000 people. Industry fueled its growth driven by cigar manufacturing, the discovery of phosphate southeast of the city, and the arrival of the railroad. The cigar industry brought in over 10,000 immigrants catering to the cigar workers and factory workers, many of them Cuban. Tampa became known as the “Cigar Capital of the World.” This prosperous city is seen at it’s best with the busy railyard, long vistas, and open space for the citizens to enjoy.


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Aden, Mombaza, Quiloa, Cefala, Braun, Geor, 1572

When one talks about the monumental cartographic works of the Renaissance, there are three: the atlases of Mercator and Ortelius and the Civitates Orbis Terrarum by George Braun, the principal editor, and Franz Hogenberg, the lead copperplate engraver. This six-volume work was published between 1598 and 1617 and was the first general printed collection of town views. It is a unique visual record of the 16th century giving a view of urban and town life during that time. They used different views including from elevation, through perspective views, and overhead plans. The towns are often set in a framework of the countryside and hand colored. Their work paved the way for subsequent urban mapmakers for over 150 years.


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Residence & view of oil farm of A.R. Black situated in Beaver Twp near Elk City on the Emlenton & Shippenville R.R, Joseph A. Caldwell, 1877

The first oil boom in the United States happened between 1859 and the early 1870’s in northwestern Pennsylvania. Clarion County was at the heart of this oil rush. In the year of 1891, Pennsylvania was supplying 58% of the nation’s oil. This 1877 view of the “oil farm” of A.R. Black shows a bucolic prosperous scene with clear skies and beautiful landscape amidst the picturesque oil wells. Highly romanticized, this prosperity was not destined to last. By 1907, Pennsylvania provided less than 10% of the nation’s oil as discoveries in Ohio, Texas, California, and Oklahoma quickly dominated the market.


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Residence and farm of Wm. Meek, San Lorenzo, Eden Tp., Alameda County, California, in Official and Historical Atlas Map of Alameda County, California, J. Burton, 1878

County atlases such as this one from Alameda were a uniquely American cartographic development. The atlases typically contained a index map showing the gridded layout of the county, detailed township plats with the names of the owners, and views of the towns or cities as well as residences, farms, and important buildings. Door-to-door salesmen and advertising campaigns would entice patrons to subscribe to the publication for about $10.00 per county. For an additional fee, usually $10.00 to $50.00, a view of their property would be included. In all, approximately 750 county atlases were published during the latter half of the nineteenth century.


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Poplar City, Thompson & West, 1876

Real estate developers often have used maps to promote the sale of land to interested buyers. This view shows Poplar City, an area “connecting the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara, Cal.” The lots were for sale only to builders, not to homeowners. Orchards were included at the back of each lot and poplar trees lined the streets. This area is now known as the Rose Garden neighborhood, a desirable area to live in San Jose near Santa Clara University. By the 1890’s and into the early 20th century, Alameda Boulevard, shown at the bottom of the view, became the place to live with wealthy residents building expensive mansions some of which still stand. An electric streetcar line was installed along the Alameda in 1888. The six lane Interstate 880 now runs between Davis and Newhall Street.