Historic Maps

hyperreal cartography and the unrealized city

Lower Manhattan Plan of 1966

Lower Manhattan Plan of 1966

hyperreal cartography and the unrealized city.

Over the years I’ve collected odd maps, drawings, and plans for all sorts of things that pertain to my interests. One of them is unrealized buildings or urban plans. Back to the future if you will. About a month ago I realized that they were collecting digital dust on my hard drive and I should do something with them. At the very least so I have them saved online if I ever lose my data. I decided Tumblr would be a safe and easy to use way to put these online.

Apparently I’m not lone in thinking these maps and plans are cool because in a month I’ve gone from 0 to 6,000 followers. I meant to post this sooner but it took off so fast I didn’t have time. I’m so pumped that there are other people who love this type of thing too and I thank you all for supporting it so much!

Look forward to more interesting maps soon!

An Animated History of the MBTA

Inspired by the map made by Bostonography for their post about the 100th anniversary of the Red Line in Boston opening (from Harvard Sq to Park St) I decided to see what the system would have looked like in the vernacular of the modern system map. The present system map didn’t come into being until the system-wide style modernization in 1967. Before then the maps didn’t use colors (or when they did it was different, as in the case where the “Red” line was colored blue). Lines were known by where they went, as in the Washington St subway or the Cambridge subway, or the Commonwealth Ave trolley.  The names were chosen (so the urban legend goes) because: Red Line went to Harvard (their school color being crimson), the Green Line went along the Emerald Necklace, the Orange Line went under Washington St which was in colonial times known as Orange St, and the Blue Line which went underwater.

So instead of just flashing a bunch of old maps that all look completely different, it made more sense to stick to one style and animate each year when the system was expanded (or contracted in many cases). I toyed with the idea of having text describing each change on the map but found that too confusing since you can’t control it for each slide (which I may create later).

Listed below are the changes to the system by year.  I refer to all lines by their present day names:

  • 1897: The original subway opens for Green Line trolleys from Allston to Park St.
  • 1898: Park St to North Station is opened with a trolley incline at North Station for all trolleys to the north of the city.
  • 1901: Orange Line opens in four segments: Sullivan Sq to North Station (elevated), North Station to Dover St (Atlantic Ave elevated), Dover St to Dudley Sq (elevated), and a routing though the Green Line subway from North Station to Pleasant Ave.
  • 1904: Blue Line opens as a trolley tunnel from Maverick Sq to Court Sq at Scollay Sq.
  • 1906: Atlantic Ave station opens on the Blue Line.
  • 1908: Washington St subway opens on the Orange Line, Green Line restored to trolley service.
  • 1909: Orange Line extended from Dudley Sq to Forest Hills.
  • 1912: Red Line from Harvard Sq to Park St opens; Green Line extended to Lechmere; Green St station on the Orange Line added.
  • 1914: Green Line extended to Kenmore Sq.
  • 1915: Red Line extended to Washington St.
  • 1916: Red Line extended to South Station; Blue Line extended to Bowdoin Sq.
  • 1917: Red Line extended to Broadway.
  • 1918: Red Line extended to Andrew.
  • 1919: Orange Line extended to Everett; Beach St station closes.
  • 1921: Arlington station added to Green Line.
  • 1922: Lechmere becomes terminal for Green Line trolleys.
  • 1924: Blue Line converted from trolley to heavy rail.
  • 1927: Red Line extended to Fields Corner.
  • 1928: Red Line extended to Ashmont.; Atlantic Ave el service cut back, rush hour service only from Dudley to North Station (Dashed Line).
  • 1929: Mattapan High Speed Line opens.
  • 1932: Green Line extended past Kenmore with portals for Watertown, Boston College, and Cleveland Circle trolleys; Charles St station added to Red Line.
  • 1938: Atlantic Ave elevated service ended.
  • 1941: Huntington Ave subway opened on Green Line from Copley to Arborway.
  • 1952: Blue Line extended to Suffolk Down.
  • 1954: Blue Line extended to Wonderland.
  • 1955: Science Park added to Green Line.
  • 1959: Riverside Line added to Green Line from Kenmore Sq to Riverside.
  • 1961: Pleasant St portal closed on Green Line.
  • 1963: Adams Sq station closed; Scollay Sq changed to Government Center; Mechanics station changed to Prudential (All Green Line).
  • 1965: Massachusetts station renamed Auditorium (Green Line).
  • 1967: Orange Line stations renamed: Friend-Union > Haymarket, Milk-State/Devonshire > State, Washington/Summer-Winter > Washington, Boylston-Essex > Essex.
  • 1969: Green Line Watertown “A” banch closed.
  • 1971: Red Line extended from Andrew to Quincy Center.
  • 1975: Orange Line Haymarket North extension opens from North Station to Malden Center; Charlestown elevated closed.
  • 1977: Orange Line extended to Oak Grove.
  • 1980: Red Line extended to Braintree.
  • 1983: Quincy Adams station added to Red Line.
  • 1984: Red Line extended from Harvard Sq to Davis Sq.
  • 1985: Red Line extended to Alewife.
  • 1987: Orange Line Southwest Corridor opened from Chinatown (renamed from Essex) to new Forest Hills; Washington St elevated closed; Green Line truncated to Heath St from Arborway.
  • 1988: Columbia changed to JFK/UMass; added to Red Line Braintree branch.
  • 1990: Auditorium renamed Hynes/ICA (Green Line)
  • 2002: Silver Line Phase I: Washington St opens.
  • 2004: Silver Line Phase II: South Boston to Logan Airport/City Point opened.
  • 2009: Silver Line to City Point discontinued; Silver Line Dudley Sq to South Station opened.

The MBTA of today is hardly recognizable from the system a century ago.  This says a lot about the willingness of Boston to change and adapt itself to survive.  The many extensions from 1971 to 1987 were funded by transferring funds from canceled highway projects to mass transit.  During the 1990s the subway was neglected in favor of expanding commuter rail.  These suburban extensions were never paid for and are a huge reason the MBTA is steeped in so much debt today.

Now if you are anything like me (and obviously you are or you wouldn’t be here) you want to be able to take in each slide like it’s a fine scotch. I’ve created a gallery of each slide below so you can see each one and track the changes. The gallery viewer also has a slideshow function which works just like the animation above.

Maps of the 1912 NYS Public Service Commission

In 1912, 100 years ago this year, New York City was in the throws of subway expansion. With the success of the original line from City Hall to 145th St in 1904 the city leaders knew that future growth depended on this new form of transportation and plans for expansion were drawn up. The original subway was operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Co. (IRT) and was responsible for operations of the new subway as well as all elevated lines through Manhattan and into the Bronx. Over the river in Brooklyn, which at that point had only been part of New York City for 5 years, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Co. (BRT) ran all the elevated lines from Coney Island, New Lots, and Williamsburg into Manhattan over the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges. New York, being a hard fighting political town, saw these two companies now vying for control over the new subway lines.

In 1910 a deal was brokered between the two companies which became known as the Dual Contracts. As the name suggests there were two contracts for subway expansion; the IRT was allowed to expand in Manhattan along 7th Ave and Lexington Ave, into Brooklyn along Fulton and Eastern Parkway, and into the Bronx. The BRT, soon to be reorganized as the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Co. (BMT) was allowed to extend its Brooklyn lines into Manhattan under Broadway, Delancey and Centre Sts, and over the soon to be finished Manhattan Bridge.

To facilitate a more planned expansion program the New York State Public Service Commission drew up a study to look at new lines throughout the city. Buried deep in the bowels of the New York Public Library I found this decaying relic and was able to make scans of the maps for each proposed line. Sifting through each proposal a picture of the city from a century ago begins to form. Unlike today where most of the traffic is headed to Midtown, these early plans still build for a city focused further downtown.

Trunk lines are planned along 1st, 3rd, Lexington, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Aves. When looking closer you see that the majority of service is focused on the 34th St area, then the retail and entertainment center of the city. Other lines run closer to the river then we would ever build today because back then these were the areas of industrial production and water-born trade. My favorite map by far is the Brooklyn Loop lines. I’ve read is subway histories that these were planned but it’s not until you see a map that you really get an idea of the scope these early subway planners were on. A vast interconnected network of subways was to criss-cross Bedford-Stuyvesant, connecting subways from Long Island City, Williamsburg, downtown Brooklyn, Crown Heights, and Bushwick.

Over next generation many of these plans would eventually be realized, some as described and others in heavily modified forms. Still others were left on the drawing room floor perhaps even unrealistic in their own day.